A Look at “The Walking Dead” #151: “Call to Arms”

The Walking Dead #151- Cover

So after Rick’s call to arms, we have issue #151, titled…well, “Call to Arms.”  There’s a lot of nice character building in this issue that I enjoyed and overall, it was a good issue.

The Walking Dead #151- Dwight gives orders to the group

We build off of Rick rallying the communities by having them out in the wilderness, fending off roamers.  While I don’t necessarily think it was the best idea to be grouped together and fire their weapons since those sounds can draw in even more roamers, I like that we got to see the people training, rather than it all happen off-panel.

As we’ve seen both earlier in this comic and similar to what’s going on in the midst of the sixth season of The Walking Dead, Rick wants these unassuming, non-threatening people who don’t often see action to be prepared for when they take on The Whisperers.

The Walking Dead #151- Rick tells Dwight that he's a leader

But Rick has realized that all of his police training comes with a limit.  His style of training doesn’t mesh well when preparing for an army of people who dress in roamer skin.  And I doubt that Rick’s instructions would boil down to ‘Shoot to kill.’  That’s where Dwight comes in.  And I really like that, despite Dwight’s continuous objections, Rick sees leadership in him.  Again, Dwight took up the mantle when Negan was defeated, but he’s since had second thoughts.

The fact of the matter is that, in this charged atmosphere, he doesn’t get to just quit.  He’s already left The Saviors to avoid responsibility, but as Rick points out, he’s already a leader.  In my opinion, I think that even with Dwight’s reluctance, he may capitulate to Rick pushing him to lead because he values his opinion.  It’s an interesting way to force Dwight to grow.  He left to escape leadership and ran right into a scenario where his expertise proves valuable.  Here’s hoping he finally steps up to take charge.

As far as other characters go, we learn that Maggie is about to return to The Hilltop, while Jesus remains in Alexandria.  By the way, I love Jesus’ remark in response to Rick asking Maggie if she can spare more people, to which Jesus said that he’s staying, so how many more would Rick need.  It’s brief, but effective because it continues to show how much of a badass Jesus is, but also just how useful he is as an ally to Rick and Maggie.

The Walking Dead #151- Gabriel tells Rick that he wants to start training

We also finally get to spend a bit of time with Father Gabriel, who hasn’t had much to do since the time-skip.  Yeah, we’ve seen him here and there, but this is the most, if any, dialogue he’s had.  And it’s about him wanting to step up, which I like.  Gabriel isn’t a character we’d assume would normally be out killing roamers, but he did step up during “All Out War” and he realizes that it’s time he did more than just work to save people’s souls.  Good on him.

Now the most interesting part of this issue, to me, came from Rick’s conversation with Josh’s father.  Despite almost being killed, and even though Josh’s father wasn’t the one who did the attacking, Rick is taking a humane approach to dealing with people who do bad things.

The Walking Dead #151- Rick believes that doing a bad thing doesn't make you a bad person

He says “Doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person.  If we wrote you off after that one mistake…think of all the good you’re going to do that would be erased.  Don’t you get it?  That’s what we’re doing.”

The Walking Dead #151- Rick checks on Negan

Take a close look at Rick’s face right after he says this.  It’s brief, but effective, as if Rick has just had an epiphany.  Following this, he goes to check on Negan, as if he intended to say something to him, but just left.  Negan embodies that person who has done a bad thing.  Not to say that Rick would suddenly forgive Negan for killing Glenn or for any of the horrible things he’s done, but consider that Rick went to Negan for advice on leadership.

Part of me thinks that maybe Rick is starting to see Negan as more than just a prisoner, but a valuable resource.  I won’t go as far as saying this is the first step in Rick considering the possibility of releasing Negan, but maybe he’s wondering if what he’s doing, keeping Negan imprisoned, goes against what he said to Josh’s father about undoing the good that Negan could do.

The Walking Dead #151- Rick wants Michonne to be leader at The Kingdom

I always enjoy Rick and Michonne’s interactions, and this issue was no different.  It makes sense that, despite Michonne wanting to head back out to sea, Michonne realizes that she’d be of great use at The Sanctuary.  And we know that she already thought about going there, anyway, so all Rick needed to do was what he does best: give people that extra incentive to step up and lead.

It’s interesting watching our characters that we’ve watched grow, now become leaders.  You’ve got Rick in Alexandria, Maggie at The Hilltop, Michonne possibly heading for The Kingdom, and the possibility of Carl leading the Saviors.  That last one is a stretch.  Carl may be hardened due to his injury, but I don’t see anyone at The Sanctuary taking their orders from a kid.

The Walking Dead #151- Eugene gets a response on the radio

Finally, there’s the end with Eugene managing to make contact with someone on the radio.  The comic has been building this for some time and it’s a nice way to end the issue.  It seems like there’s a glimmer of hope, but as of now, it’s just a voice.  Who’s at the other end?  Are they trustworthy?  So many questions to come out of this, which is a good way to keep people invested until the next issue.  Good ending to a good issue.

A Look at “Agent Carter” Season 2, Episode 4: “Smoke and Mirrors”

Time for some backstory.  While Agent Carter and Captain America: The First Avenger have informed us about Peggy’s character, we don’t know much about her upbringing.  Well, while now isn’t the most ideal time to dig into her history, “Smoke and Mirrors” goes back to an earlier time to show how Peggy and Whitney Frost became the people they are today.  All the while, our agents continue to uncover the mystery and conspiracy behind the shadowy Council of Nine.  With a few snags in the process.  This is “Smoke and Mirrors.”

Smoke and Mirrors- Young Peggy Carter, played by Gabriella Graves, and Michael Carter, played by Webb Hayes, scolded by Mom

The episode begins with a young Peggy Carter, played by Gabriella Graves, dressed as a prince that has just saved the princess after slaying the dragon.  Her brother, Michael, played by Webb Hayes, steals her wooden sword, but she pushes him over and the two start roughhousing.  Mum comes out and tells Peggy to start behaving like a lady.  Yeah, right.

Smoke and Mirrors- Jason shows Peggy his plans for a neutron reactor

As if on cue, we cut to Peggy chomping on a sandwich as Jason goes over some work.  He still has no sense of his body at all and can’t even eat yet, but he still enjoys spending time with Peggy.  As the two get close, they realize this was about to be a moment, so Jason goes over a design for a fast neutron reactor.

At full power, it could generate 25 kilowatts.  Three years prior, Agnes Cully patented a reactor that can generate a 1000 times more power.  Wilkes may be a genius, but Frost defies categorization.

Smoke and Mirrors- Whitney Frost receives a cage of mice

We then cut to Categorization Frost, who receives a giant package, courtesy of Isodyne Energy, with a cage of mice inside.  Huh.

Smoke and Mirrors- Jarvis and Peggy discuss Whitney Frost

As Jarvis leaves a Calvin Chadwick campaign setup, he tells Peggy that Calvin is inside, but no Whitney.  He also gives Peggy a campaign button that she promptly gets rid of, even if it could have helped her blend in.  Peggy figures that exposing Whitney is the key to exposing everything else.  As some men leave, Peggy notices one of them has a wound on his hand in the same spot as the man who attacked Peggy.

Smoke and Mirrors- Jarvis shows off his tranquilizer gun

Thanks to some intel from Rose, Peggy learns that the car is registered to a Rufus Hunt, who is head of security at the Arena Social Club, meaning he has access to secrets.  Given how Hunt almost bested them both, they’ll need a good strategy.  That’s why Jarvis presents a tranquilizer gun.  Not previously used for the flamingo, surprisingly, but the koala.  Jarvis is a dick to koalas.

Smoke and Mirrors- Young Agnes Cully, played by Ivy George, does not like Uncle Bud, played by Chris Mulkey

We cut back to Broxton, Oklahoma, 1920, as a young Agnes Cully, played by Ivy George, puts a radio back together.  As her mother, Wilma, played by Samaire Armstrong, speaks with her, in enters Uncle Bud, played by Chris Mulkey, who takes away Agnes’ pencil.  He asks her to put on a smile, but she’s too busy thinking.  She doesn’t like Uncle Bud.

Smoke and Mirrors- Whitney tries to absorb a mouse

In the present, Frost- who has masks in her room, by the way- examines the deepening crack on her forehead and then takes out one of the rats.  She waits a long moment and…nothing happens.  A knock on the door gets her attention.

Smoke and Mirrors- Calvin has good news for Whitney, from LIFE Magazine

Calvin enters, wondering about the missing director, but Frost could care less about him.  The photographer asked if Whitney could wear the white dress with the neckline tonight, as LIFE Magazine wants to put her on the cover.  They’re gonna hit it big, I tell ya.

Once Calvin leaves, Whitney returns to her rats.  She pulls one out and holds it in her palms.  After waiting another long moment, nothing happens, but soon enough, the rodent is absorbed into her palms.  Whitney Frost is a dick to rats.  Also, the crack continues to expand.  After examining the crack, she makes a note.

Smoke and Mirrors- Jarvis fakes an American accent and pretends to call out Hunt

Jarvis, putting on his best cop impersonation and American accent, calls out for Hunt and tells a nearby neighbor to go back inside and shut the door.  Hunt, escapes out the back and runs right into one of Peggy’s tranquilizer dart, but it’s not enough to put him down.  He strangles Peggy, who desperately reaches out to grab the tranquilizer dart and eventually manages to put it in his arm.

But once she and Jarvis stuff Hunt into the trunk, Hunt actually opens the trunk and tries to give it one last fight!  He fails and is knocked out by the butt of the tranquilizer gun, but not before sticking the dart into Jarvis’ arm.  How Jarvelous.  He goes down.  Okay, that was funny.  Hunt is a fighter- that much is certain.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy is surprised to find Sousa waiting for her

Peggy heads home and is surprised to find Sousa waiting for her.  He did some more digging into Frost, but Peggy, in a hurry, whisks the files from Sousa.  But this is Sousa, and he knows when someone is trying to brush him off.  It’s not a big problem when he notices Jarvis knocked out of his mind, when Peggy could blame that on drinks, but then Sousa hears a man knocking and yelling from the trunk.

Yeah, Sousa is pissed, as he wishes that Carter would have kept him in the loop.  Peggy’s excuse is that Sousa has faced enough blowback from the SSR due to her actions, but Sousa still wants to help. And he will, so long as Peggy doesn’t keep pushing him away.  So what’s Peggy’s plan?  Kill Hunt?

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy and Daniel interrogate Hunt for information

No.  Interrogation time.  Sousa demands that Hunt start naming names and explain Whitney Frost’s involvement, but Hunt doesn’t buckle.  He’s not afraid of being knocked around.  Hell, the Japanese already put his fingers through hell, but even they got nothing.  When it’s Peggy’s turn, Hunt isn’t afraid of her, either.  He tells Peggy that people like her have a line, but she won’t torture him because there’s no time.

Smoke and Mirrors- Mr. Edwards, played by Christopher Grove, offers Peggy a chance to join the Special Operations Executive

Back in the past, Peggy shows off her engagement ring to the ladies at her job.  Her boss, Mr. Edwards, played by Christopher Grove, calls her into his office.  He congratulates her, but also has a proposal: Special Operations Executive- they’ve been tasked to train field agents in warfare.  No, women aren’t sent in, but resistance networks need women and Peggy is being recruited because she’s already an exceptional codebreaker.

Peggy tells Mr. Edwards that she doesn’t believe she’s meant to be in the field, but Edwards tells her that this is a massive chance to strike a blow for king and country.  Peggy promises to discuss this with her fiancé.  She’s just not cut out for war.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy gives Hunt a cold

In the present, Peggy removes the syringe from Hunt’s neck.  She tells him that sometimes, people need to blur the line to get things done.  Peggy knows all about Hunt, who apparently should be familiar with the effects of malaria.  There’s an antidote to Hunt’s right and the toxin’s effects become fatal in 20 minutes.  She’ll be back in 10.  The compound, turns out, is a failed cure for the common cold that will just give Hunt a serious cold.  Peggy is cold as ice.

Smoke and Mirrors- Uncle Bud wants Wilma gone

We cut back to Broxton, Oklahoma, 1928, as an older Agnes Cully, now played by Olivia Welch, overhears her mother arguing with Bud.  H heads out, leaving a wad of cash, demanding that Wilma leave the house tomorrow.  Wilma tells Cully that she could have been nicer to Bud.

Smoke and Mirrors- Wilma tells Agnes that her smile will get her far

Oh, but Wilma’s not done yet.  She holds up Agnes’ rejection letter from the University of Oklahoma and chastises her, saying that the college would never accept a woman.  No one cares what’s in her head.  If she was smart, she’d focus on her face- as that’s the only thing that would get her anywhere in this world.  I’m sure people in the 1920s talked like this.

Smoke and Mirrors- Whitney receives a call from Calvin

In the present, Frost receives a call from Calvin, who is upset that she’s an hour late.  LIFE will cancel the story if she’s not there.  Frost hangs up the phone.

Smoke and Mirrors- Hunt gives some names to Peggy and Daniel

Sousa and Carter continue interrogating Hunt.  He eventually names Thomas Gloucester and Hugh Jones, but he knows that he’ll never be free after this.  There’s no running or protection from the Council because these men aren’t just ordinary criminals.  They’re in everything, and what they can’t buy, they destroy.

President McKinley, Black Tuesday- those things didn’t just happen by accident.  As Peggy prepares to crush the antidote, Hunt admits that there’s a storage room where the Council of Nine records their meetings.  Everything Peggy and Daniel will want to know is on their tapes.

Smoke and Mirrors- Jason and Jarvis work on a theory

Jason and a now sober Jarvis work on a theory.  Jason’s atoms lost cohesion at the quantum level, but it seems like he’s reached a dead end.  As Jason then notices a deepening crack in the chalkboard, Jarvis snaps him back to reality.

Smoke and Mirrors- Vernon Masters interrupts a potential SSR raid

Sousa and Carter have a plan to raid The Arena Club.  As they go over the strategy with SSR agents, Vernon Masters and federal agents enter.  The War Department has decided to audit the SSR- with an executive order, no less.  While Sousa shows the men around, Masters tells Peggy that he’s been dying to talk with her.

Smoke and Mirrors- Vernon speaks privately with Peggy

She tells him about the conspiracy and how there’s no legitimate reason to hold up this raid, but Masters doesn’t think that Carter is a team player or likes to play it safe.  Peggy rattles off some of the Council of Nine’s influence, but refuses to name her source.  She and Sousa signed up an affidavit, which is sufficient for a warrant, but Vernon still wants a name.

He tells her that the Hollywood 10 also thought they were independent thinker, which is relevant since Peggy could be seen as a spy by some.  It doesn’t help that she isn’t even American.  Peggy will have to work hard to stay afloat, but she’ll manage.  Even still, Vernon warns that her friends could still drown.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy and her fiancé, Fred, played by Kevin Changaris

We then flash back to Hampstead, England, 1940, Peggy toasts with two men: an older Michael, now played by Max Brown, and Peggy’s fiancé, Fred, played by Kevin Changaris.  Michael talks about life on the front and Fred offers some assistance, while Peggy talks about her offer to join the S.O.E.  Fred says that Peggy isn’t one to risk life and limb to go behind enemy lines.  In addition, he says that a boring life is a privilege.  Fred is boring.

As Fred leaves, Peggy asks Michael his opinion of Fred.  In response, Michael asks why Peggy turned down the S.O.E. position, as he’s the one who recommended her.  He knows that Peggy wants the same thing she’s wanted since she was young- a life of adventure.  She claims that her dreams changed, but Michael counters that she can still change her mind.   She shouldn’t worry what other people think- she’s a fighter.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy and Daniel plot their next move, Daniel reveals that he has a tissue sample from Jane Scott

Back in the present, Sousa and Peggy figure that the Arena Club must have removed anything incriminating for now.  Peggy tells Sousa to stay at SSR and save his hide, but he says that he’s in this until the end, as he got the same speech from Vernon that Peggy did.  Plus, not all of the evidence has been taken- as Sousa managed to hold onto a tissue sample from Jane Scott’s autopsy.  Time to revisit the broom closet.

Smoke and Mirrors- Daniel tells Hunt to walk

Sousa releases Hunt from his bonds and orders him to his feet.  Hunt tells Sousa to shoot him now because he’s done marching.  Sousa pull the trigger and the gun doesn’t go off, so Hunt knocks him out and escapes.  Well, Peggy already got throttled twice, so it’s only fair for him to take a punch.

Hunt heads to the Chadwick household and speaks with Whitney Frost, completely unaware of the listening device planted on his back.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy in her wedding dress

Back in England, 1940, Peggy’s mum helps her into her wedding dress.  Mum, naturally, is emotional because of the big day, but Peggy appears at ease.  When Mum goes to answer the door, Peggy looks out the window and sees two soldiers.

If movies and television shows before this show are any indication, when soldiers show up at your home, it’s usually bad news.  That happens to be the case here as well, as Mum faints and Peggy fears the worst for Michael.  Sometime later, Peggy grabs her suitcase and heads out, S.O.R. envelope in hand.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy notices that Jason looks a bit distracted

In the present, Hunt and Frost continue to talk while the others listen.  Peggy asks Jason if he’s fine, as he’s transfixed with the chalkboard.  It’s more than being unable to sleep- it’s as if something is pulling him away.  It would be easy to let go, he says.  Peggy says that her brother talked about her being a fighter- and Jason is the same.  Ah, so that’s why we learned about Peggy’s brother.  So we could talk about him now.

Smoke and Mirrors- Hunt tells Calvin and Whitney about his encounter with Peggy Carter

Calvin Chadwick arrives at home.  Hunt tells her about Peggy Carter and admits to Whitney that Carter wanted names.  As Whitney draws back the curtains, Calvin tells Hunt that he has to answer to the Council.  Hunt disagrees- he can always tell the Council what Calvin and Whitney are up to right now.

Smoke and Mirrors- Whitney kills Hunt

Whitney has something important to show Calvin.  Hunt only made a mistake, and mistakes can be fixed.  Frost grabs Hunt’s throat and begins to absorb Hunt.  The signal disappears.

Smoke and Mirrors- Whitney meets talent agent Ned Silver, played by Andrew Carter

We then cut back to Hollywood, California, 1934.  A doll faced Agnes Cully, now played by Wynn Everett, heads to the picture show, but she has no money.  The woman at the ticket booth tells her that the picture hasn’t changed.  She slides Cully a ticket, but only just this once.  As she heads in, a talent agent named Ned Silver, played by Andrew Carter, says that Cully looks pretty when she smiles.  If Cully smiles like that, he can make a career future for her.

Cully thinks this all sounds real interesting.  She introduces herself to Silver as Agnes Cully, but he says that name will have to change for one as pretty as her.  That’s the beauty of Hollywood: you can be whatever you want.

Smoke and Mirrors- Whitney fixes another of Calvin's messes

In the present, Frost’s crack deepens.  She tells Calvin that getting rid of Hunt was her fixing another one of Calvin’s problems.  As Whitney heads over to Calvin, he asks what she is.  Her response?  Whatever she wants.

In a period piece where your protagonist is an unabashed, independent thinker, and a woman to boot in the 1940s, chances are it won’t take long before you get to discussions about identity.  While Agent Carter has dealt with how Peggy sees herself and under what lens the world views her, we haven’t spent a lot of time dealing with her past prior to Captain America: The First Avenger.

And rather than shoehorn in references to that film, “Smoke and Mirrors” takes us through Peggy’s upbringing, but also adds some depth to Whitney Frost as we examine both of their backstories within one episode.

Smoke and Mirrors- Young Peggy

Identity was the central focus of their respective stories.  Even as a young girl, Peggy was a fighter who refused to conform to society’s standards of what was deemed acceptable for a lady.  As evidenced when we learn that she’s an expert codebreaker, she already exceeded society’s expectations not because she had something to prove, but because of her natural abilities.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy shows off her engagement ring

At the same time, she seemed to still want some semblance of a domestic life.  I’m unsure whether this is because she was forced or she chose marriage of her own volition, but for a moment, Peggy chose, as Fred put it, a boring life that’s still a privilege.  She second guessed herself at times, but she wanted the simple life.

But if this show and Captain America: The First Avenger are any indication, that boring lifestyle isn’t who Peggy really is or what she truly desired.  She longs to be useful outside of a normal life.  Hell, it wasn’t until Russia last year that Peggy truly felt at home in her element.

Smoke and Mirrors- Bad news

It’s a tragedy that it took the death of her brother to make that push to join the war effort, but it was necessary to set Peggy Carter down the road she’s on today.  Michael saw greatness in Peggy and sought to make sure she lived a life worth her time instead of getting married and settling down.  And he didn’t try to force Peggy to prove a point- he saw from childhood her desire to be more than what was expected of her.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy faces off with Vernon

That same drive is what led her to clash with the SSR, but also Vernon with the real threat of blackmail.  The drive to be an independent thinker is looked down upon by those who want everyone to fall in line.  Peggy isn’t a follower, but she’s also not trying to step over her colleagues to make herself look good, the way she feels Thompson does.  Given what we know of Peggy, I don’t think she needed someone else to give her that push.

Steve and Peggy

She’s driven to both better herself and protect those around her, particularly those who may not be able to fend for themselves, but still fight anyway.  That’s one of the things that drew her to Steve Rogers in the first place.  I wish her decision to join the S.O.R. had been more of a personal decision.

Smoke and Mirrors- Peggy and Michael talk

It also seems like including Michael was just a way for Peggy to mention him to Jason, who talked about how easy it would be to let go.  Had he not said that and just maintained confidence throughout, there’d be no reason for Peggy to draw comparisons between Jason and Michael.  It also seems odd that, given what Michael saw in combat, that he’d recommend Peggy go as well, when they’re both liable to lose their lives.

Smoke and Mirrors- Young Agnes Cully

On the other side, you’ve got Whitney who, from her childhood, also stood out above expectations due to her intelligence, but while Peggy received encouragement from Michael, Whitney was told to stay in her place and smile like a good girl.  It’s the same mentality that plagues her in Hollywood and has some real world implications as well, going back to the director who got too hands-on with her.

Smoke and Mirrors- Young Agnes is told her look, not her brain, is what matters

It didn’t matter how much Whitney knew.  To her mother, the world would never accept a woman who’s got a brain and speaks her mind.  But like Peggy, Whitney didn’t show off her smarts to receive validation.  She was already confident in her abilities.

Smoke and Mirrors- Whitney Frost smiles

Not until Whitney arrives in Hollywood and comes upon the opportunistic talent agent that she realizes the truth of her mother’s words: if you’re a woman, the most important thing you can offer is your body instead of your brain.  Like her mother before her, Whitney used her body to sell her image and make a name for herself to satisfy the men making the decisions.  Like Peggy, Whitney wouldn’t just buckle and let men tell her what to do.

Kilgrave and Trish

She smiled because she knew that’s what people like the talent agent craved to see, as if smiling would negate all of her other problems.  If I wanted to stretch, it’s similar to how Kilgrave exerted control over Jessica Jones- among many others- because it made him happy that she loved him of her own free will, even if it was through mind control.  And there I go again referencing Jessica Jones.

While I’m not convinced that people in the 1920s, in the midst of the crash, would talk about how much women need to smile in order to get by, I like how the show is fleshing out Whitney’s character by giving us her backstory so soon.  Like the SSR last season, Whitney could have been two-dimensional, but she’s given depth and is no longer bending to anyone’s beck and call.  Now that she’s shown off her abilities to Calvin, she’s demonstrating to him that she’s in control now.

With all that said, I’ve spent more time on the past because that’s where we fleshed out the characters.  Most of the stuff in the present either revolved around Whitney testing her powers or Peggy, Daniel and, to some extent, Jarvis, racing against the clock to uncover the Arena Club’s secrets before they’re stonewalled by Vernon Masters.

Smoke and Mirrors- Easy as pie

It’s always fun to see Peggy and Jarvis work together, and this episode is no exception.  But credit where it’s due, Hunt is one hell of an opponent and as much fun as it is seeing Peggy kick ass, you want your character to feel grounded.  So it’s a refreshing change of pace to see her go up against an opponent she can’t just overpower with a few punches.

Smoke and Mirrors- Sousa is not pleased with Peggy kidnapping Hunt

And at least Sousa got to get in on the action.  As we saw last time, he does trust Peggy’s instincts, but if she keeps going rogue, he won’t always be there to have her back.  Not that Peggy ever needs protection, but Sousa is one of her biggest backers.

I’m glad he’s not letting their friendship cloud his judgment as chief, as she did still kidnap someone.  If this were a simpler show, Sousa would turn a blind eye, but because Agent Carter is better than that, Sousa still trusts her, but won’t just let her walk outside of the law, even to get information.

“Smoke and Mirrors” helped flesh out not just Peggy Carter before she went to war, but Whitney Frost as well in her ongoing journey to discover who and what she is.  While some elements of the backstory weren’t as strong as they could have been, it was a change of pace in an otherwise good episode.  The more dramatic flashbacks were balanced out by the faster-paced and comedic moments in the present.  But as Peggy and company don’t know what Whitney Frost is capable of yet, they’re in for a big surprise.

A Look at “Agent Carter” Season 2, Episode 3: “Better Angels”

Oh, hello there, Howard Stark. Haven’t seen you in awhile. You aren’t still womanizing are you?  Wait, what am I saying?

Better Angels- Peggy and Daniel investigate Wilkes' home

The episode begins with Peggy meeting with Sousa at Wilkes’ home.  Nothing on Zero Matter, though.  When Peggy notices that some of the floor is hollow, Sousa pulls out the floorboards.  There, they find an envelope filled with cash, a Russian passport, and a ticket to Moscow – all the evidence needed to paint Wilkes as a spy.

Better Angels- Agent Vega, played by Rey Valentin, thinks that Wilkes is a Communist spy

Agent Vega, played by Rey Valentin, believes just that, as he found a Tokarev underneath Wilkes’ bed and figures it’s the same gun used to kill the two agents transporting Jane Scott’s body. However, Peggy thinks that Isodyne is trying to frame Dr. Wilkes and using the SSR to do their dirty work.  Interesting theory, so let’s investigate.

Better Angels- Peggy and Jarvis meet up with Howard Stark on his film set

Or we can cut to a Howard Stark production of Kid Colt. Once Peggy and Jarvis get out of the shot.  When the shoot ends, Peggy shows Howard the Zero Matter film that Wilkes showed her.

Better Angels- Howard looks at the Zero Matter film

Howard notes that this kind of power doesn’t exist in the natural world, but it would be the greatest find in the world yet. It’s important enough, Jarvis notes, for Isodyne to paint Wilkes as a Communist.  Howard agrees with Peggy that the Russian connection is just a ploy to set up Wilkes.  Noticing the lapel pin, Howard mentions that the insignia is from the Arena Club, which has been around since 1906 and is filled with wealthy, influential members- all male and pale.

They’ve tried many times to recruit Howard, but he’s refused.  When Peggy mentions how she first came across the pin, Howard, unsurprisingly, does not remember Dottie Underwood until Jarvis reminds him what he was wearing when she kidnapped him.  Of course.

Better Angels- Whitney and Calvin talk about their future

Whitney Frost, meanwhile, observes the Zero Matter on her forehead when Calvin enters.  There’s a news article calling Wilkes a spy, so everything is going according to plan.  Whitney asks Calvin what he would think if she wanted to retire, and he feels that would overshadow his Senate campaign.  He figures that she can retire once they move to Washington.  Dick.

Better Angels- Jack pays a surprise visit to SSR West and has rewritten Peggy's incident report

At SSR West, Peggy and Daniel receive a surprise visit from Jack, who is in town on business and has made a few changes to Peggy’s incident report to state that she chased down a Russian spy.  His justification is that he’s covering Peggy’s behind to keep people from thinking that she herself is a Communist.  Peggy refuses to sign the incident report.  She tells Jack to watch the Isodyne film, but Jack still considers the case closed.

Peggy heads off, not noticing some items floating on her desk.

Better Angels- Peggy tells Howard that she wants to bug The Arena Club

Peggy meets some of Howard’s very attractive and useful production assistants when Stark finally arrives to continue working, which he calls thinking.  The women help him think.  Peggy wants to plant listening devices inside The Arena Club, but Howard wants something snappier.  Besides, Peggy is a woman and no girls allowed.

Better Angels- Jack talks with Vernon about sensitive information

Jack, meanwhile, watches the Zero Matter film, when Vernon arrives for a visit.  Okay, is everyone coming to Los Angeles?  Jack maintains that this won’t be controversial.  Vernon needs Jack to recover some sensitive materials- which isn’t standard procedure for the SSR- but doesn’t give any details.  There are bigger fish than the SSR, Vernon reminds Jack.  If the material that Wilkes stole falls into the wrong hands, it could be disastrous for the United States.  Jack will keep Vernon in the loop if he finds anything.

Better Angels- Jarvis and Howard visit The Arena Club and speak with the host, Torrance, played by John Balma

Jarvis and Howard visit The Arena Club and learn of its admittance policy from the host, Torrance, played by John Balma.  Even Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t allowed.  Howard is short on time and he’s not a fan of the stuffy atmosphere, so Jarvis opens the doors as tons of Stark girls flood the club.  This is a massive improvement.  Plus, never let it be said that Howard Stark didn’t get completely behind the Suffragettes.

Better Angels- Peggy plants bugs in the club

With this lovely distraction, and with Jarvis helping Leopold make martinis, Peggy starts planting bugs in various spots.  She soon enters the library and places a bug on the suit of armor previously seen.  As this happens, the Council of Nine, Calvin included, exit their secret meeting room.

Better Angels- Peggy enters the Council of Nine's secret meeting room and finds suspicious newspapers

When the council departs, Peggy heads in and notices two copies of the Los Angeles Tribune, each with a different main headline, but the same story- and tomorrow’s date.  Hearing a noise, she ducks under the table and plants another device.  Problem is that the device makes a buzzing sound, so she’s forced to destroy it.  And then a man enters the room.

He paces about, gun in hand, and calls security for a possible breach.  Peggy, using the wiring from the devices, creates a spark and burns a piece of cloth to distract the man long enough for her to escape.  She slips out of the room and is caught by another man, when Jarvis calls Miss Wendy to the powder room.  Again, Atwell has a superb American accent.  Jarvis tells Howard that it’s time to go, so Howard bids Torrance farewell.

Better Angels- Peggy and Jack clash

We return to SSR, with Jack maintaining that this case is closed and Peggy still believing that this is a conspiracy.  After all, she’s found proof in the newspaper with a date from tomorrow.  The conspiracy is that the Senate campaign is being rigged.  It’s proof enough, but Peggy’s bugs were destroyed and she doesn’t have the newspaper.  The two clash again, with Jack claiming that her emotions are clouding her judgment and Peggy calling Jack a coward that bows to higher authorities.  While valid, Jack tells her to drop it and leave.

Better Angels- Peggy and Daniel notice floating objects

Daniel is on Peggy’s side, but he still says that Wilkes went onto the lab of his own volition.  And while Sousa believes that Peggy is doing the right thing, he won’t be able to help her if she keeps going about this like the Lone Ranger.  But then Daniel notices the floating devices- a side effect of Zero Matter.

Better Angels- Howard explains why objects float around Peggy

Following this, the two pay a visit to Howard, who places various items around Peggy- all of which float.  Well, not the bottle of wine, which is unfortunate.  The temperature around Peggy is approximately seven degrees cooler than the rest of the room, not unlike the Lady of the Lake, the medical examiner, and Detective Henry.  But while Peggy isn’t freezing or contaminated, there’s a disruption in the gravitational field around her.

Better Angels- Howard and Jarvis work on an experiment

In his lab, Howard works on an experiment dealing with photography and recording visible wavelengths on film.  Silver nitrate creates a coding that recreates the captured image on film.  In essence, he can make visible invisible light.  If Stark could pull this off, he could make another fortune.  Howard sprays the air and Jason Wilkes appears.

Better Angels- Jason Wilkes returns, minus his vocal chords

However, he’s only visible and transparent, but not tangible.  Also, no speech until Howard coats his vocal chords.  Jason has been shadowing Peggy since last night to get her to notice him.  Howard is unsure right now if he can make Jason whole.

Sousa asks him about last night and Wilkes mentions running into Whitney Frost, who also wanted the Zero Matter and knew more about it than expected.  As Jason explains this, he fades in and out.  Despite Howard spraying him, Wilkes fades.

Better Angels- Howard promises to help Peggy

Howard briefs Jarvis on the supplies he needs…as well as cheese.  Howard notices the spring in Jarvis’ step, noting that he and Peggy would make a good team.  Stark tells Peggy that he’ll stay up to work on this case, but she maintains that Jason deserves a better fate than this.  So the question is whether Whitney Frost survived the explosion.  While Sousa looks into this, Peggy plans to poke the bear.

Better Angels- Peggy talks with Whitney Frost about the Isodyne incident

She then meets the bear-er, Whitney Frost, to ask about the Isodyne incident.  Whitney asks Peggy if she knew that Jason was a Communist.  It’s hard to believe one of them could infiltrate a secure lab.  Whitney claims to know nothing about Isodyne, despite being there the night of the incident.

Whitney left Calvin’s office at 9, security goes home at 10, and newspapers reported that the explosion happened around midnight.  Peggy notes that papers are in the business of selling papers.  Facts aren’t their top priority.  Whitney can attest, as the press once reported that Whitney was in a torrid love affair with Cary Grant.  As if.

But Peggy’s instincts are telling her that something is still off.  Even if something is, the conversation is brought to a halt when Whitney is called to the set.

Better Angels- Jack and Vernon discuss the Isodyne footage

Back at SSR, Jack gives Vernon the film reel of the atomic testing.  Vernon tells Jack that he’s doing the right thing and a great service for the United States, which is all that Jack wanted to do.  But judging from his facial expression, he doesn’t fully seem sure.

Better Angels- Peggy finds Howard working on a solution

Following this, Peggy meets up with Howard and Jason, who still isn’t fully corporeal.  Howard appears to have been working around the clock with little to no sleep.  Jason doesn’t know if he can fix this, but Peggy says that he’s impressed both her and Howard Stark, so he’s in good hands.  But that’s when Howard walks right through Jason as he searches for drinks.  Great timing, this Stark.

Better Angels- Jack and Daniel talk about Peggy

Over at SSR, Jack prepares to head out for the night when he spots Sousa still going through files.  Jack believes that things between Daniel and Peggy have mended things and Daniel’s heart is no longer broken, but hey, Daniel is getting engaged.  Jack offers to get Daniel a drink, but Sousa makes a rain check for next time.  Oh, and he compliments Sousa’s shirt.

Better Angels- Whitney tells Calvin that she wants Mr. Hunt to take care of Peggy Carter

Whitney gripes to Calvin about her encounter with Peggy Carter- something needs to be done about her.  Official channels won’t cut it, so Whitney wants Calvin to let Mr. Hunt to take care of her.  Calvin is concerned with that idea.  After all, they have had enough run-ins with the Feds to last them all year.

Then Whitney turns on the waterworks, claiming that Peggy threatened her.  She thinks that Peggy is using her to get to Calvin and would just hate if this caught the Council’s attention.  Calvin promises to take care of this by calling Mr. Hunt.  Quite an award winning performance by Ms. Frost here.

Better Angels- Peggy works out her anger while Jarvis bids her good night

While Peggy takes out her anger on a punching bag, Jarvis bids her a good night, but also asks if he can help with her anger, even offering to have Howard call a sparring partner.  But no, Peggy will take up her issues with the bag.

Better Angels- Peggy is ambushed

But once Jarvis leaves, Peggy is ambushed from behind.  Peggy, no small fry, is able to battle her attacker as the two are thrown into pool.  Jarvis, hearing the noise, soon enters the battle, but the attacker is able to hold them both off and soon escape as Peggy fires at him.  I’m left wondering why this assailant didn’t just use his gun first.

Better Angels- Peggy hears Jarvis' recorded security warning

Next morning, Peggy feels reinvigorated.  She won’t act as rash as Whitney Frost.  Jarvis, meanwhile, is installing improved security measures around the house- including a recorded alert with his own voice.  It’s just a temporary measure, as Jarvis has no desire to spend the rest of his life as a disembodied voice.  Ha.  Foreshadowing.

Better Angels- Peggy learns that Howard plans to go to Peru

Howard, meanwhile, hasn’t slept.  He’s headed to Peru to meet with an expert in subatomic and gravitational physics- his old professor, Abner Brody.  Jason is to stay and work on the math and anything he needs, Jarvis will be able to help.  Just like last season.  Jason calls Howard a genius, but also a menace.

Even still, he invited a stranger like Jason into his home without a thought.  Peggy apologizes again for getting Wilkes involved, but Jason figures that better him than her.  This is why he can’t stay.  Someone tried to kill him and is now going after Peggy, so he’s removing himself from the equation.  Peggy counters that if he removes himself from the people trying to protect him, he’s as good as dead.  After all, she did help him out of the observatory.

Peggy maintains that they need each other, particularly if Whitney Frost is an expert on Zero Matter.  Jason figures that Peggy doesn’t want him to leave, and chances are that’s true, so he’ll stay.

Better Angels- Daniel tells Peggy about Agnes Cully

At SSR, Peggy, having missed her flight to New York, turns down Sousa’s offer of a security detail.  Sousa, meanwhile, found something in the file he was looking at last night- something related to an inventor named Agnes Cully, whose work helped put Isodyne on the map.  The radio frequency modulators that the Allies used to send coded messages across enemy lines?  It was Cully’s idea to rotate the frequencies.  So what’s Agnes Cully got to do with all of this?  Well, for starters, her stage name is Whitney Frost.

Better Angels- Vernon brings Jack to the Arena Club to meet Calvin Chadwick

Back at the Arena Club, Vernon and Jack meet Calvin Chadwick, his new best friend.  Everyone at Isodyne appreciates Jack’s help.  Jack also spots Calvin holding a newspaper- the newspaper with the same headline that Peggy spoke of earlier.

Better Angels- Kenneth tells Whitney that the studio wants to replace her

Whitney Frost speaks with the director we saw previously, Kenneth, played by Randy Sklar, who tells her that she’s to be replaced with a fresh face.  Kenneth told the studio execs said that he would walk if his star was replaced, so the studio heads folded.

Better Angels- Whitney accidentally kills the director

Frost thanks Kenneth for his help with a hug, but Kenneth doesn’t let go.  As he calls her beautiful and goes in for a kiss, he notices the black mark on her forehead.  She then grabs his arm and the Zero Matter absorbs him into her body.  The crack on Whitney’s forehead deepens…

Three episodes in and “Better Angels” deepens the mystery of Isodyne Energy, the Council of Nine, and works at setting up a grander conspiracy than what’s presented on the surface.  However, while all of the mystery elements were fine, I again found much of my enjoyment coming from the bits of character development.  With a few exceptions, Agent Carter has a knack for making dialogue exchanges feel natural.

It’s less heavy handed than last season and it feels more like we get to see societal norms played out, rather than have characters spell out in various ways how hard it is to get by if you’re not a well-off White male.

Better Angels- Whitney learns that she may be replaced

Take Whitney, for example.  Her image is what’s led her to stardom and at face value, one would take her to just be the humble wife that’s perfectly fine letting her husband make the decisions and be the breadwinner.  But Miss Frost, as we learn, is the one making the calls- she pushes Calvin to have Peggy assaulted, she elected to have Wilkes set up as a Russian spy, and she’s not afraid to call out her husband on his crap.

Better Angels- Whitney grabs the director

This sort of assertiveness wouldn’t be expected from a woman of the 1940s.  And given how Whitney faces sexism on the job, this and her uncontrollable wielding of the Zero Matter show that she’s slowly coming into her own all the time as opposed to hiding behind a mask and pretending to be someone she’s not.

Women like Peggy and Dottie have had training, learned to fight, and don’t take guff from anyone, man or woman, who second guesses their abilities.  But Whitney, as far as I can tell, hasn’t dealt with anything like Zero Matter before, so while it may harm her pristine Hollywood image in the eyes of some, it allows her to exert control over others, so long as she learns to control it first.

Better Angels- Whitney absorbs the director

From her reaction when she absorbed the director, it’s clear that she is dealing with a power she doesn’t fully understand and is struggling to grasp, but it also provides her with an opportunity to fight back against any nonsense she faces from men.  She’s been known so far for just her image, but now she has a chance to show people what she’s capable of, and given what Sousa learned, it’s clear that she knows more than she’s letting on.

Better Angels- Jack arrives in Los Angeles

Now, let’s talk about Thompson, as I’m conflicted on him.  I don’t know whether this is questionable writing or the show is setting him up for something later this season, but I’m not a fan of his clashing with Peggy.  He’s seen her in action, respects her work as an agent, and they’ve worked together several times, including this season’s premiere.

A Sin to Err- Dooley has a word with Peggy about Leviathan and Howard Stark

Even Chief Dooley eventually allowed Carter to investigate a wild hunch, so I don’t get why Thompson isn’t more trusting of her.  Early Season One Thompson would say that Peggy’s emotions are clouding her judgment, but I don’t expect that from Thompson now because he’s learned that Peggy is plenty more competent than the average SSR agent.

Better Angels- Thompson tells Vernon that the SSR typically doesn't hand over key evidence

Granted, Thompson is in a difficult position.  In this post-war period, he and the SSR are in danger of becoming irrelevant.  Like how Frost could be replaced with another actress, Thompson could be swapped out for another agent and agency altogether, so he’s torn between his friendship to Peggy and Daniel, and his desire to stay relevant.

Better Angels- Thompson reacts to Peggy calling him a coward

From the look on his face when Peggy calls him out for buckling to higher authorities, Thompson knows that she’s right, but he’s too proud to admit it.  And for life of me, I can’t understand why.  I can understand him wanting to stay relevant, but he’s close friends and partners with both Peggy and Sousa, so I would think he’d shed his insecurities around them.

For him to not do that, changing Peggy’s incident report, giving Vernon the film reel, and withhold information, to me, is a step backwards from his character development in the first season.

The Iron Ceiling- Thompson invites Peggy for a drink

Again, I don’t want Thompson to become an antagonist because ever since “The Iron Ceiling,” I’ve found him to be a still flawed, but complex character who grew to respect Peggy for her capabilities.  It’s as if he’s traded in being misogynistic for just being an outright dick.  That said, there’s a glimmer of hope when he sees Calvin with the newspaper that Peggy previously spoke of, so I’m hopeful that he’s still, in his heart, a good guy.

Better Angels- Howard Stark, movie director

Now onto the fun stuff.  First off, it’s great to see Howard Stark again.  I find Dominic Cooper best in sporadic appearances.  The first season dealt with clearing his name, but we didn’t see him every episode.  To me, that’s how it should be.  And that’s just as evident this week, as Stark is still as womanizing as ever, but Cooper brings plenty of charm and charisma to the role.

Better Angels- Howard notes the chemistry between Jarvis and Peggy

And it’s not like he’s only being a womanizing director.  I mean, that’s part of it, but we’re still talking about a genius here.  He openly welcomes Wilkes into his home without question, he doesn’t hesitate or think twice when he notes Jarvis’ bond with Peggy, and he compliments Peggy time and time again on her abilities.  Howard may be sleazy at times, but beneath all that is a welcoming intellectual who is just as anxious to solving this mystery as Peggy.

Better Angels- Peggy is quick on her feet

All while Peggy got to continue her detective routine of uncovering the Council of Nine’s conspiracy.  Much like her hotwiring a car in the middle of a shootout, Peggy is very adept at thinking on her feet, which I like.  Sure, she might not always escape undetected, but it’s great to see her devise a quick way to escape a tricky scenario.  Plus, it didn’t involve a costume.

Better Angels- Peggy wants Jason to stay

Plus, her feelings for Wilkes are made all the more apparent when she outright demands that he stay.  I’ve said before that sure, it would be nice if Peggy eventually had some sort of romantic interest, but generally speaking, there’s no need.  She’s fully devoted to her work and maintains professionalism when dealing with coworkers, though Sousa may be an exception to that, given how she spoke of him to Ana.

Better Angels- Kid Colt comic book

I did like the little Marvel Easter Eggs.  I generally don’t like little winks and nods if they’re blatant, but the Kid Colt film, Peggy’s negative reaction to a comic book based film, and Jarvis saying that he had no intention of spending the rest of time as a disembodied voice were all moments I appreciated.  Plus, I could be wrong, but I thought I saw a window pane in Howard’s lab that looked very much like an arc reactor.

Though, part of me wonders at what point James D’Arcy becomes Paul Bettany and Dominic Cooper becomes Roger Sterling-I mean, John Slattery, I mean- Gerard Sanders.  Oh, whatever.

“Better Angels” had a great blend of drama and humor both with Howard Stark’s return and Whitney Frost grappling with the Zero Matter.  It advanced the storyline a bit, but delivered some strong character moments as well.  Again, I’m hopeful that Thompson comes around and is still one of the good guys, as it’d be a shame to undo his character arc from the last season.

A Look at “Agent Carter” Season 2, Episode 2: “A View in the Dark”

So how about that black matter from the previous episode?  Let’s find out about it, as well as look at some racism, sexism, and fights with birds.  This is “A View in the Dark.”

A View in the Dark- Peggy finds Edwin training

The episode begins with Peggy spotting Jarvis lifting weights.  I’m as surprised as she is.  Ever since New York, Jarvis has begun a regimented physical fitness routine.  Fencing is his hobby, but he’s also good at boxing and judo.  He goads Peggy into taking him down, first mistake, and she eventually does in no time with a move she learned from brother.

A View in the Dark- Ana finds Edwin on top of Peggy

But then Jarvis takes her down and mounts her.  Just in time for Ana to join.  Not join in, but notice, and she’s not upset at all.  In fact, she shares with Peggy that Jarvis is never more lethal than when he’s flat on his back.  I’m not even gonna try to dissect that, given how Ana has been his sparring partner for 12 months.  Anyway, to get things started, Peggy needs a ride to the office.

A View in the Dark- Rose and Daniel head to the office

On the way to the office, Rose asks Sousa why he hasn’t told Peggy yet.  What that is, we don’t know yet, but Rose figures that the longer Daniel waits, the more awkward it will be when they meet.

A View in the Dark- Violet, played by Sarah Bolger, invites Peggy to join her and Daniel for dinner

And at the office, they find Peggy making small talk with a nurse who dropped off cookies before her shift.  This is Violet, played by Sarah Bolger.  She wants to eventually show Peggy around eventually, but for now, she invites Peggy to join her and Daniel for dinner tonight.

The reservation is for two, but you can pull up a chair for that just in case.  Restaurants are flexible like that.  Peggy learns that two SSR agents have been sent to pick up Jane Scott’s body from the morgue- it’s set to arrive by midday.  The scientists will identify the mysterious substance that killed her if SSR plans to progress on the case.

A View in the Dark- Hitman kills two SSR agents and takes Jane Scott's body

We then cut to two agents picking up said body, but as Jane Scott is being wheeled out, a man shoots the two handlers and loads them into the back of his van.

A View in the Dark- Calvin Chadwick speaks with the Council of Nine

Elsewhere, Calvin Chadwick heads to a hidden room in a bar, where he meets the very secret, very guarded Council of Nine.  I suppose it’d be too out of place at this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe if we referred to them as the Secret Empire.

Anyway, among this council is Roxxon CEO Hugh Jones, Ray Wise reprising his role.  One member, Tom, played by Casey Snyder, informs Chadwick that, in light of recent events, the Council has determined that the best course of action is to shut down the Isodyne program.  After all, the experiments have yielded no results, but have attracted federal investigations.  And accidents will happen.

Failure is a key component to progress.  Hugh himself is still living off of the dividends from the 1929 stock market crash- a crash that Tom had the vision to orchestrate.  Oh, these guys are dicks.  The Isodyne program has put everyone’s interests in jeopardy.  Calvin counters that the group is in possession of what could be the greatest discovery of all time, but right now, he hasn’t illustrated that to them.

Calvin maintains that this substance is potentially priceless.  Atomic energy isn’t even regulated yet and Isodyne is set to make it a thing of the past.  As the men put out their candles, Tom tells Chadwick that the decision has been made and Jane Scott’s body is already being taken care of as they speak.  Tonight, the council’s men will clear out the lab and following that, all connections to the program will be terminated.  Calvin is told to focus his priorities on the Senate Race, as a considerable amount of money has been funneled to his campaign.

A View in the Dark- Daniel and Peggy investigate the aftermath of the shooting and kidnapping

At the river, Peggy and Sousa investigate the aftermath of the assassination.  No sign of Jane Scott’s body.  Clearly the two have kicked a formidable hornet’s nest in a very large case, but there’s good news from New York: Thompson managed to get the Isodyne search warrant.

A View in the Dark- Peggy and Daniel learn about the containment leak

The two return to Isodyne Energy and quickly inform the receptionist that they have a warrant to search the premises.  They won’t get very far because a small containment leak has put the lab under isolation.  Wilkes enters and confirms this new information, and while it seems like he’s not cooperating, he gives Peggy an address and meet time for tonight.  Well, they may get some answers after all.

A View in the Dark- Jason does some snooping

In the lab, Wilkes sneaks into an authorized room, picks a lock in seconds- we don’t see it actually work- and pulls out an Isodyne Energy file on the Isodyne Atomic Program.  He retrieves the folder and goes about his business, but doesn’t realize that he was spotted.

A View in the Dark- Daniel and Peggy discuss The Dunbar Hotel

Over at SSR West, Sousa matches the address Wilkes gave Peggy to The Dunbar Hotel downtown.  Sousa has been before- he and Violet watched Ella Fitzgerald sing there- and it’s a real hot spot for the Colored crowd.  He intends to back Peggy up, but Peggy reminds Sousa that the note said to come alone and she intends to do just that.  He suggests that Peggy get dolled up, but she insists that she already is.

In a moment that feels very TV, Sousa tosses his jacket onto the chair, but it falls onto the floor.  When Peggy goes to pick it up, she finds an engagement ring that Sousa intends for Violet tonight. A visibly crushed Peggy wants Sousa to tell Violet that she’s sorry about missing dinner and she’s very happy for him.  Come on, Agent Carter, don’t give me this easy drama.

A View in the Dark- Ana picks a dress for Peggy

Later, Ana goes over potential outfits with Peggy.  When Peggy mentions that she’s going solo, Ana asks if there are other agents.  That’s a very good question and would be a good way to flesh out another SSR agent, but I’m not a writer.  Peggy says that no other agents matter that would be useful besides Sousa anyway.

Ana, picking out a nice purple dress, has also been to The Dunbar Hotel and asks if Peggy dances, as Ana prefers the East Coast swing, but Edwin is adept at the collegiate shag.  Again, I don’t want to look too deep into that.  Peggy is just glad to be interacting with someone outside the SSR.

A View in the Dark- Edwin shows Peggy the inner workings of Howard Stark's car

Edwin still doesn’t get to drive Peggy, as much as he thirsts for adventure, but he does show some of the hidden compartments in Howard’s leisure car: such as a button that reveals a bottle of wine, a button that adjusts the tints of the windows for extra privacy, a tracking device that Howard uses when he’s abandoned the car for the evening due to companionship, and finally, a button that pushes down the driver’s seat.  Howard would have a car like this.

A View in the Dark- Jason and Peggy talk at the Dunbar Hotel

Peggy meets Dr. Wilkes at The Dunbar Hotel, though he’s more preoccupied on getting two Gin Rickeys and swapping stories.  Peggy isn’t interested in small talk and tells Wilkes that his reluctance to explain himself- despite having nothing to do with Jane Scott’s death- makes him look complicit.

Wilkes mentions that when he arrived in the office this morning, he was escorted into a conference room and reminded of the classified nature of his work.  Words like “treason,” “prison,” and “hanging” were thrown around.  I have to wonder if that last word was modified for Wilkes in particular.  Wilkes won’t talk to the SSR, but before he talks to Peggy, he’d at least like to know more about the woman he’s trusting.  Fair enough.  Peggy starts talking and decides that she’ll need a Whiskey neat.

She talks about the time that Headmaster Portley found her in the middle of his bedroom, wearing a bandit mask and holding both his wife’s knickers and his most expensive bottle of Brandy.  And her friends just abandoned her to get a few switches.

A View in the Dark- Whitney Frost on a film set

In between this, we cut to Whitney Frost on the set of a film production.  The asshole director wants someone to remove the lines around Whitney’s eyes and suggests she skip lunch in order to tighten into her dress.

A View in the Dark- Jason and Peggy dance while discussing Calvin Chadwick

Back at Dunbar, Wilkes beckons Peggy for a dance when he hears his song.  Just for a few bars at least.  On the dance floor, Peggy asks Wilkes if Calvin killed Jane Scott.  Wilkes says no, but he does believe that Calvin would kill in order to cover up the research conducted.  This is bigger than even Chadwick thinks it is, and the best way for Wilkes to explain it to Peggy is to show it to her.  As the two leave, the man who killed the SSR agents- Rufus, played by Chris Browning, follows from behind.

A View in the Dark- Calvin tells Whitney that the Zero Matter project has been scrapped

Whitney returns to the dressing room and learns from Calvin that the project has been scrapped- Zero Matter, the experiments, everything.  As of tomorrow, Zero matter will be gone.  Calvin isn’t pleased- they have a means to change the world, but it’s being thrown away.

While Whitney is upset, she blames Calvin’s infidelity for their troubles.  More than that, she berates him for not standing up to the council.  Besides, Calvin says, isn’t the Senate run better for the two in the long run?  Victoria nods, but she doesn’t seem to believe that.

A View in the Dark- Jason brings Peggy to the Griffith Observatory

Jason takes Peggy atop the Griffith Observatory and points to a spot where the light tapers out into nothing- that’s where he grew up, working in the orange groves with his family.  People would say over and over that he couldn’t get out and didn’t deserve more- that sort of stuff makes you feel insignificant.

So then, how does one go from the orange grove to the observatory?  Jason explains that he took a second job scrubbing floors at night saved enough to get a degree. However, it was the war gave him a real opportunity as a navy engineer, followed by actual scientific work in the weapons propulsion lab.  When Jason returned home, he applied to 16 companies, but Isodyne was the only one willing to put one of his kind in a lab.

And this is why he’s hesitant about torpedoing his relationship with Isodyne.  Peggy counters that if Jason protects them, he’ll betray everything he’s fought to achieve.  Now hopefully Jason didn’t just bring Peggy up here to tell her that, or she’ll be cross.  Luckily, this view isn’t the only thing Jason wants to show Peggy.

A View in the Dark- Jason shows Peggy some footage from an Isodyne rocket test

Inside, he runs and shows Peggy the film that he stole earlier.  During the war, Isodyne, along with every other legitimate company in their field, worked towards a successful atomic reaction.  It was a scientific gold rush, to put it another way.  Isodyne’s research got far enough to conduct atomic testing after the war ended.  Now Peggy knows what happens during an atomic test: a blinding light, mushroom cloud, and total devastation.

This one, though, didn’t go as planned.  The film shows that an explosion created a black anomaly that seemed to tear a hole in space and sucked any and everything nearby into itself.  No sign of the men after that.  Only one thing was left behind- Isodyne calls it Zero Matter since there’s no room for it on the Periodic Table, and Jason thinks that it’s more dangerous than anything he’s known.

While three men deflate the car tires and head inside the observatory, Jason tells Peggy his hypothesis around perfect fluids.  See, real fluids conduct heat and have viscosity.  Perfect fluids, though, have no sheer stresses or heat conduction.  Zero Matter, though, is always drawing matter into itself.  More than that, it will always be the coldest object in the room because it’s devouring any nearby energy.

So it’s possible that Jane Scott was in physical contact with the specimen.  Jason’s job was to build and maintain the magnetic containment chamber, as Zero Matter does not like to stay in one place.  It could be extraterrestrial or extradimensional, but whatever it is, Peggy plans to go to Isodyne tonight to steal it.

But then they hear and spot the three men entering.  The two manage to escape, but find the tires deflated, so Peggy activates the tracker on Howard’s car.

A View in the Dark- Ana informs Edwin that there's a sock on the doorknob

Back at House Jarvis, Edwin chases Bernard Stark when Ana tells him that there’s a sock on the doorknob.  Well, Bernard will have to wait.

Jason covers Peggy until he’s out of ammunition, but this gives Peggy enough time to hotwire another car and hightail it out of there.  The men hop into the other vehicle and give chase.  They managed to sabotage the car’s engine, so when it looks like Peggy won’t get very far, Jason gives Peggy directions to pull into an alley and kill the lights.

A View in the Dark- Peggy finds a lapel pin

Their pursuers pass them, but inside the car, Peggy finds a lapel pin with the same insignia as the lapel pin that Dottie tried to steal.

A View in the Dark- Daniel receives a call from Edwin and learns that Peggy may be in trouble

Before Violet and Sousa can leave for their date, Rose receives a call from Jarvis, who informs them about the SOS signal from Peggy.  Sousa will meet up with Jarvis.

A View in the Dark- Bakery employee, played by Nick Hoffa, asks Peggy if she's alright

Because neither Jason nor Peggy have change, they can’t currently use the phone.  They enter a nearby bakery, where the owner, played by Nick Hoffa, doesn’t take kindly to a White woman with a Colored man and asks if Peggy is okay.  He only wants to hear from her, not the boy.  Plus, if the two want change for the phone, they’ll have to buy something.  Now Peggy is downright insulted by this.

A View in the Dark- Jason loves the eclair, Peggy wants to punch all of Los Angeles

In a moment I can’t help but love, we then cut to Jason chomping down on an éclair that he enjoys very much, despite being slighted.  Peggy also takes a bite, but then she just throws the éclair away.  How ride.  The phone doesn’t even work anyway.  Peggy would much prefer punching the man’s right eye.  After all, Peggy needs a hobby and punching all of Los Angeles could be a good start.  Jason figures that the shooters were sent on Isodyne’s behalf to scrub the project.  A car pulls up, so the two don’t move.

A View in the Dark- Jason and Peggy kiss in the phone booth

And then Peggy and Wilkes break several anti-miscegenation laws with this.  Peggy has an idea- stealing the car.  Not what Jason had in mind.

A View in the Dark- Daniel, Edwin, and Rose at SSR

Back at the SSR office, Sousa blows off some steam upon hearing that Peggy wasn’t found, but instead, an unsettling amount of bullet casings and her car with the tires slashed.   He demands that surveillance be pulled from the observatory and puts out an APB put out for Jason.  Jarvis will be coming with Sousa to Isodyne.

A View in the Dark- Jason and Peggy arrive back at Isodyne

At the same time, Wilkes and Peggy arrive at Isodyne.  They aren’t alone, though, so while Peggy takes out some of the men, Jason retrieves the Zero Matter.

A View in the Dark- Whitney Frost confronts Jason for the Zero Matter

But then there’s Whitney Frost, who surprises Jason and demands that he put the Zero Matter in its case and give it to her.  Jason doesn’t think that Whitney will shoot him while he’s in possession of the matter.  The two struggle and eventually drop the container.  The Zero Matter pulls in everything nearby.  Peggy, hearing a noise, heads in and finds a gaping hole in the wall.

A View in the Dark- Peggy tells Daniel about what happened

Later, Peggy quickly informs Sousa of what happened, but he just wants to make sure that she’s okay.  There’s so much to process, but right now, Sousa wants Peggy to go home.  As for Jason, no one apparently could have survived that.  Right?

A View in the Dark- Violet gives Daniel half of a bear claw

The next day, Sousa meets Violet and fills her in on his night.  He apologizes for last night, but Violet is just glad that he’s fine.  He promises to make it up to her.  Violet got Sousa a bear claw, but it’s only half of one now because she got hungry.  You suck, Violet.

A View in the Dark- Peggy and Ana talk about knowing people for a short amount of time

Peggy laments Jason’s apparent death, but Ana talks of how soon Edwin saved her life, despite only knowing him for a short amount of time.  Peggy just wishes that she got more time to know Jason.

A View in the Dark- Whitney's aftermath and black marks

Calvin, meanwhile, knocks on Whitney’s door to talk to her, but she’s cowering behind a mirror with a black crack and visible veins on her forehead.

“A View in the Dark” builds upon the mystery established in the premiere, but as Peggy says, this case may be bigger than the SSR imagined.  With the introduction of the Council of Nine, the backstory for Zero Matter, Peggy finding the lapel pin that ties this back to Dottie, and Whitney Frost’s face at episode’s end, this season is much more than Peggy and Daniel investigating the death of a woman encased in ice.

While I enjoyed the action set pieces and car chase, I had more fun with the character moments and developing both the returning and new characters.  And I’m glad that we aren’t having Peggy face sexism all around her, that doesn’t mean that the women and others around her don’t have issues.

A View in the Dark- Whitney is insulted by the director

Just as the lab tech from the premiere believed that field agents looked down on technicians, there are still clear divides.  Whitney faces direct sexism in her career as an actress.  She’s held up to this standard to the point that she’s encouraged to fast just to fit into her costume and have the lines under her eyes removed- as if the director wanted to make her as perfect as an ice sculpture.

A View in the Dark- Whitney's new look

And now her image has been tainted permanently due to being exposed to the Zero Matter.  I like how the show isn’t overplaying this.

A View in the Dark- Jason had trouble getting hired

Same applies to the issues that Wilkes faces as a Black man working in the 1940s.  He’s in a great position at Isodyne, despite his adversity and the daily racism he must face, as seen in the bakery.  So even though he’s a useful resource for the SSR, he’s not going to leap at the first opportunity to turn against the company that employed him.

A View in the Dark- Jason and Peggy kiss

His scenes with Peggy are fun, informative, and allow their friendship to grow at a good pace.  Though I wish Wilkes wasn’t as forward with Peggy as he was both here and in the premiere, he doesn’t come off as someone just trying to get into Peggy’s pants.  He’s an ally that just wants to know as much as he can about Peggy, and their cultural differences allow them to learn about one another.

A View in the Dark- Peggy is told that she needs to buy something to get change for the phone

At the bakery, for example, Peggy is aghast that the employee would have such an attitude, but Wilkes doesn’t seem taken aback that much at all, as he’s probably been through this many times before.  But for Peggy, it’s getting caught by the headmaster that presented an obstacle and not racism.

Peggy and Wilkes come from two different worlds.  While Peggy struggled gaining acceptance in New York, Wilkes lives in a time where he won’t even get full acceptance from society for at least another decade or two- maybe more.  It’s a nice way for Agent Carter to discuss racism without being overt about it.

A View in the Dark- Peggy laments the loss of Wilkes

Plus, like Colleen, Wilkes is someone whom Peggy had a bond with that was taken too soon.  I mean, not really- I’m beyond positive that Wilkes will pop up again, but for the purpose of this episode, I enjoyed Atwell’s performance in those final scenes as she lamented Wilkes’ loss and how she hoped to know him more.

A View in the Dark- Peggy realizes that Daniel plans to propose to Violet

Here’s what I didn’t like about some of Peggy’s material: the potential conflict with Sousa.  There were subtleties in Atwell’s performance that I liked, such as her reaction to the engagement ring or when Sousa mentions that he and Violet went to the Dunbar Hotel, but what I do not want is for this show to devolve into some sort of petty love triangle between Peggy, Daniel, and some other man or woman.

I’d like to think Agent Carter is a smart enough show that it can have these two friends maintain a professional relationship.  Would it be nice for Peggy to eventually have a romantic interest?  I guess.

Jessica Jones and Luke Cage

But it’s not a must for her character in the same way that we don’t have to see Jessica Jones and Luke Cage become an item when they work well as friends.  And I don’t know why I keep bringing up Jessica Jones while talking about Agent Carter.

A View in the Dark- Peggy prepares to spar with Edwin

But going back to this show, what I like about Agent Carter is that Peggy is about as far away from being feminine as possible.  She assembles rifles in her spare time, has no trouble with taking up punching out all of Los Angeles as a hobby, and is damn good at hotwiring a car.  Her strength come from her being a great character, not a great female character.  And I hope Peggy doesn’t go down the road of becoming jealous of Violet.

A View in the Dark- Peggy meets Violet

That and I hope Violet doesn’t have some lingering secret or characteristic that will make her appear untrustworthy or evil.  It’d be easy to make the main character’s competition look bad by comparison, but I just want Violet to be the object of Sousa’s affection without having it lead to some tension between him and Peggy.

“A View in the Dark” added to the growing mystery with the introduction of the council, showed us the power of the Zero Matter, and helped flesh out our new characters.  Of course, Whitney Frost will never be the same and Wilkes appears to be gone…for now.  He’ll be back.  And while the action was great, I enjoyed the character bits much more.  Plus, we now know about the heated rivalry between Jarvis and Bernard.  Well, at least Edwin has a rival.

A Look at “Agent Carter” Season 2 Premiere: “The Lady in the Lake”

2015’s Agent Carter was…how shall I put this?  Met with mixed reception?  But even that would be wrong.  Critically, it was well-received and I certainly loved it.  But if shows like Firefly, Constantine, and Arrested Development, to name a few, are any indication, it’s that critical acclaim alone don’t keep a show on the air.  While the show was enjoyed by many, that didn’t equate to ratings.

A mini-series taking place after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger that fleshes out the life of Agent Peggy Carter, the series followed the events of Agent Carter adjusting to civilian life after the war, after the disappearance of Steve Rogers, and her work in the SSR.  It built on that storyline, fleshed out Peggy’s character, and further built out the Marvel Cinematic Universe without having to rely on references.

Okay, I’m sure many of you know this already, but a brief recap wouldn’t hurt.  Needless to say that Agent Carter seemed to be on the verge of cancellation due to low ratings, but ABC still managed to save the show for a second mission.  For that, I’m appreciative, because the show as a whole is great, Hayley Atwell’s performance alone is worth watching the show.  So, a year later and here we are with Season Two.  It’s off to a great start so far, but I’ve rambled enough.  Let’s jump right back into Agent Carter.

The Lady in the Lake- Dottie and a goon order bank employee, played by John Gilbert, to open the vault

The season begins with Dottie, Bridget Regan dressed wonderfully in Peggy’s familiar red and blue outfit, leading a bank robbery.  She and a goon bring the manager, played by John Gilbert, to open vault 143.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy knocks out Dottie with a bag of coins

But guess who’s also in the bank?  Yep, our favorite Peggy Carter is also here with some SSR agents.  Peggy knocks out Dottie’s henchman and engages Dottie in a fight that thankfully lasts longer than their last encounter, and the two make good use of money without actually taking it.  Peggy finally smacks a bag of coins across the back of Dottie’s head and knocks her out.

The Lady in the Lake- Sousa and Homicide Detective Andrew Henry, played by Sean O'Bryan, observe a woman frozen in a block of ice

Some stock footage later, we cut to Los Angeles, 1947, as now Chief Daniel Sousa, who has been in LA for about six months, meets Homicide Detective Andrew Henry, played by Sean O’Bryan.  Two years ago, the Lady of the Lake Killer dropped two dead women in Echo Park Lake.  A task force was assembled to go after him, but the bastard was never captured.  He just vanished until today.

While this might not require SSR assistance, the lieutenant has a thing about jurisdiction.  Hence, the West branch of the SSR, which Sousa is still putting together, was brought in to help.  Henry shows Sousa the frozen over lake, on the hottest day of the year, no less, before then showing him a woman frozen in a block of ice.  Until this lunatic is caught, Sousa is on the case.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy in interrogation with Dottie

Back in New York, Peggy wants a few simple details: the names of Dottie’s Russian handlers, methods of communication with them, the names and whereabouts of other communist operatives on American soil, why she targeted Bowery Savings Bank, and her employer.

In addition, Peggy wants to know all about the lapel pin found in box 143, but Dottie refuses to say why she wanted that in particular.  Instead, Dottie wants to know about Peggy’s technique, as she expected much more from her.  Dottie sees Peggy as one of those girls raised with silver spoons and perfect skin, so she wonders if Peggy expects everything to come to her so easily.

Dottie has one chip to trade on- fear.  And fear, Peggy says, is the one tool that little girls who grow up handcuffed to their beds learn. Peggy releases Dottie from her handcuffs, proclaiming that she’s not afraid of her.  I mean, the two did kiss, so hard to be afraid after that.  Dottie tells her that there are currencies stronger than money.

Thompson receives a call from Sousa, who is glad to hear that Dottie Underwood has been caught, but he has pressing issues right now.  Sousa tells Thompson about the iced bodies and how he’s understaffed at the L.A. office, so he’ll need some assistance.  Luckily, Thompson has just the man for the job.

The Lady in the Lake- Jack tells Peggy that she's headed to Los Angeles

Peggy doesn’t want the interrogation interrupted and questions whether Jack is sending her away because of his insecurity.  Easy dig, Peggy, but Jack doesn’t buckle.  Plus, Sousa apparently asked for Peggy specifically, which gets her attention.  Jack, meanwhile, will stay to interrogate Dottie- as the SSR can function without her- while Peggy gets ready to catch the next flight for Los Angeles that leaves in three hours.

The Lady in the Lake- Jarvis greets Peggy after her plane lands

In sunny-side Los Angeles, Peggy is greeted by Jarvis and his umbrella, even though it couldn’t possibly be that hot.  We learn that Howard Stark came out West for a defense contract, which is important business, but Peggy is distracted a flamingo named Bernard Stark- the newest member of the Stark family.  You know, Tony neglected to mention Bernard.

The Lady in the Lake- Jarvis doesn't like Los Angeles

During the drive, Jarvis explains that Howard’s latest hobby, opening a movie studio, has kept him plenty busy.  Jarvis offers to drive Peggy around, as he’s been dreadfully bored in-between their adventures and he’s not a fan of the foreign land of Los Angeles.  They eat avocados with everything, for crying out loud.  Peggy, though, says that she’ll get a car to take herself around and can handle L.A. driving conditions.  Truth be told, if you can handle driving around New York, then I assume L.A. should be no problem.

As for when Howard himself will make an appearance?  That depends on how long the location scout allows Howard to scout her locations.  Is that a double entendre?

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy meets Rose at the talent agency

Peggy is dropped off at the Auerbach Talent Agency and we cut to a pair of pretty young things dancing for talent scout Rose, who also made the leap from New York to Los Angeles.  The girls are still dancing, even as Rose interrupts them to greet Peggy, and they learn that they are not qualified.  Rose is enjoying the change of scenery, but we learn that the SSR, despite taking steps to remain hidden, still ends up found by others.  She then shows Peggy the secret entrance to the SSR office: it’s the “R” to the “S” cabinet.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy reunites with Daniel and meets Detective Henry

Upstairs, she greets a surprised Sousa, who didn’t expect her until tomorrow.  Peggy asks why Daniel didn’t return any of Peggy’s calls, but to him, a three hour time difference seems like eternity.  Plus, he’s been pretty busy setting up this SSR branch.

Detective Henry comes in with boxes of old case files.  Smartly, he doesn’t ask Peggy to file anything.  Peggy doesn’t think the new body is related to the same killer.  She wants to find out if the frozen lake and dead body are separate crimes.  After all, Dooley did say explore all old avenues for unturned stones.

The Lady in the Lake- Dr. Meltzer, played by Bruce Katzman, shows Peggy, Andrew, and Daniel the body

The three visit the coroner, where the medical examiner, Meltzer, played by Bruce Katzman, shows them the body.  It’s impossible to perform an autopsy since the body is frozen, but from a visual inspection, though, her shoes are on the wrong feet- the killer’s M.O.- and the body’s wounds are consistent with that of the Lady of the Lake’s previous victims.  There’s no telling whether the lake froze the body or the body froze the lake.

The Lady in the Lake- Glowing body, grab a chisel

Also, no explaining why the body doubles as a glow in the dark action figure when you turn off the lights.  Well, time to fetch a chisel.

The Lady in the Lake- Dr. Samberly, played by Matt Braunger, tells Daniel, Peggy, and Andrew about the body

Peggy, Daniel, and Andrew then speak to the lab technician, Dr. Samberly, played by Matt Braunger, whose short and long answer for the body is that it’s not ice. Samberly helps, but he feels insulted that he’s not invited for drinks, that and because he thinks the SSR agents look down on technicians.

As for the glow, the non-native matter is in a radioisotopic form, ionizing the nitrogen molecules in the air and blood to create the luminescence.  This could only happen by producing the radioisotope in the form of uranium, meaning the body was near a particle accelerator.  The one used in the Manhattan project is in Tennessee, but there’s another one in Pasadena at Isodyne Energy.  And what is Isodyne Energy?

The Lady in the Lake- The Isodyne receptionist, played by Angela Cristantello, tells the agents about Isodyne Energy

Well, I won’t tell you, but someone else will. We cut to Isodyne Energy, a developmental lab working on new fuel initiatives.  An enthusiastic receptionist, played by Angela Cristantello, does the explanation, but doesn’t give the agents much to work with since they haven’t got a search warrant.  I instantly love this woman.  She’s so full of energy and has a great smile.  Peggy asks for the nearest restroom.

While Sousa distracts the receptionist, Peggy picks off a scientist’s access card and sneaks into the offices to do some snooping as usual, I see.  Fortunately, this does not involve the use of a costume.

The Lady in the Lake- Jason Wilkes, played by Reggie Austin, has Peggy sample his wine

Inside, Peggy runs into a Colored scientist: Jason Wilkes, played by Reggie Austin.  Dr. Wilkes brings Peggy into a lab to show off something that will surprise her.  Nay, will leave her thunderstruck.  It’s actually his ethanol wine, which Peggy tastes and likes, despite being a whiskey girl.  Peggy introduces herself and asks Wilkes about the frozen woman, who he identifies as Jane Scott.

Turns out that Scott was as particle physicist and rumors flew that she had a close relationship with Isodyne’s owner, Calvin Chadwick.  As in they were sleeping together.  They were intimate.  I mean, Peggy can piece that together, but Wilkes feels the need to clarify.  For what reason, I don’t know.  Peggy already knows all about fondue.

The Lady in the Lake- Dr. Wilkes gives Peggy his phone number

The two are soon spotted by the receptionist and Peggy is given the boot.  Outside, she apologizes for getting Wilkes caught.  But no worries.  Wilkes hands Peggy his business card and his personal phone number.  I know it’s the West Coast, but come on, man.  It’s still the 1940s.  Tread lightly.

The Lady in the Lake- Andrew and Peggy argue over how to find Chadwick

Back at SSR West, Peggy informs Henry and Sousa of what she learned regarding Calvin Chadwick, who owns a horse that’s racing this afternoon at Santa Anita.  Henry is hesitant to pursue Chadwick, as he’s running for Senate and is a wealthy industrialist.  In addition, Henry isn’t willing to take the word of some janitor like Wilkes.  Classy, this guy.  The press, Henry figures, will crucify the SSR for going after Chadwick and they end up being wrong.

So what’s Henry’s suggestion?  Use the press to the SSR’s advantage and give interviews to the newsreels to get the word out there.  Sousa allows Henry to pursue this angle, but when Henry leaves, Sousa then tells Peggy to place a bet for him on El Lobo at the races after she finds Chadwick.  Nice.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy meets Mrs. Ana Jarvis, played by Lotte Verbeek

Following this, Jarvis informs Peggy that his wife, who has a very modern sense of style, will pick out the perfect outfit for a covert operation at the horse races.  And we’re properly introduced to Mrs. Ana Jarvis, played by Lotte Verbeek.  Peggy expected someone more like Jarvis, but Ana is equally surprised.  She has a few ensembles for the race, including a garter that doubles as a holster.  Goddamn it, we are getting a costume!

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy and Jarvis at the race track

But goddamn is it a lovely red costume.  At the horse track, Peggy and Jarvis spot Calvin Chadwick, played by Currie Graham, and his wife, Whitney Frost, played by Wynn Everett, posing for photos.  Jarvis knows them from such pictures as “The ‘F’ Stands for Freedom” and “Tales of Suspense,” but not Peggy.  She assembles rifles in her spare time.  I love this woman.  Peggy needs Jarvis to distract Frost with his flattery.  No worry there.  Aside from “Danger,” Jarvis’ middle name is “Charm.”  Sure.

The Lady in the Lake- Jarvis and Peggy greet Calvin Chadwick, played by Currie Graham, and his wife, Whitney Frost, played by Wynn Everett

Jarvis, introducing himself as head of production at Stark Pictures, pulls Whitney aside while Peggy, Hayley Atwell pulling off one hell of an American accent, strokes Calvin’s ego by speaking favorably about his Senate campaign.  It’s all flattering, but when Peggy mentions Jane Scott, Calvin goes cold.  She drops her accent and asks Calvin whether he knew that Scott was dead.  Calvin isn’t a fan of this SSR ambush or having someone know that he’s having an affair.

Well, Peggy figures, if Calvin has nothing to hide, then he wouldn’t mind providing a complete list of employees at Isodyne Energy.  Calvin is willing to help, so long as SSR gets proper clearance since Isodyne Energy deals in classified and confidential United States government contracts.

Peggy and Jarvis head off because their horse apparently lost.  So Jarvis no longer needs to entice Whitney with tales of his upcoming spy picture called “The British Are Coming.” He spent no time thinking up that name, I’m sure.

The Lady in the Lake- Daniel, Andrew, and Peggy find Dr. Meltzer's body, Daniel pushes it

Back at the coroner’s office, Peggy, Daniel, and Henry head to meet with Dr. Meltzer.  Peggy figures that Calvin’s nervousness means he had something to hide, but her theory is put on hold when the three find Meltzer, who is found frozen and then shatters as soon as Sousa touches him.  Sousa, this is why you don’t touch people.  You end up killing them.

The Lady in the Lake- Jack interrogates Dottie

Over in New York, it’s been 24 hours since Dottie was brought in and she wants to know where Peggy is, but Thompson brings a stick and carrot into interrogation.  He brings up Dooley’s method of getting suspects to talk, with Dooley speaking smoothly and Thompson not speaking at all.  He unlocks her handcuffs and declares that he’s not afraid of her.

The Lady in the Lake- Dottie upends the table and overtakes Jack

Okay, but that’s when Dottie upends the table and declares that Thompson is too easy.  They need Peggy.  Officers enter to restrain Dottie.

The Lady in the Lake- Jason, Edwin, and Peggy watch the clean-up of Dr. Meltzer's body

Jarvis brings in Wilkes to speak with Peggy, who asks if there are tests he can run on Meltzer’s body to determine what happened.  He agrees to help.  Henry, not too far, tries to get a drink of water from a fountain, but the water and fountain turn to ice.  Wilkes spots this.  Whoops.

The Lady in the Lake- Daniel and Peggy go over Jane Scott's autopsy report

According to the official autopsy, the cause of Jane Scott’s death was organ failure due to unknown toxic substance, so not the stab wounds.  Someone stabbed the body after she died and the murderer wanted them to think Jane Scott was killed by the Lady of the Lake killer, when in actuality, she died due to the substance that froze the lake.  Her shoes were still switched and the only people that knew that detail were the actual killer and the police.

Detective Henry, meanwhile, knocks out Jarvis- some aide you turned out to be- and takes Dr. Wilkes hostage so he can help fix Henry.

The Lady in the Lake- Jack has Dottie's attention and offers her a deal

Thompson asks Dottie about the pin.  However, Dottie wants something in return- preferably not the beating that Thompson promises.  She continues to compare Thompson to Carter, saying that Peggy would make this an exchange.  Deportation is better than prison, but prison, Thompson counters, is better than the electric chair.  Dottie agrees to the deal.

The Lady in the Lake- Vernon Masters, played by Kurtwood Smith, has FBI agents take Dottie into federal custody

However, federal agents, led by Vernon Masters, played by Red Foreman himself, Kurtwood Smith, intervene.  Dottie and the pin are both taken into federal custody.  Vernon congratulates Jack on his hard work, but offers to explain why the FBI will get credit for this.

The Lady in the Lake- Daniel and Peggy find the frozen car

Peggy, Jarvis, and Sousa find Henry’s car, now frozen.  Jason Wilkes left his card.  Peggy and Daniel leave Edwin with a trusty gun and flashlight: the only tools necessary when keeping watch.

The Lady in the Lake- Andrew tells Wilkes about his situation

Henry leads Wilkes and tells him that he didn’t kill Jane, but was hired to clean up the mess.  He made it look like the Lady of the Lake Killer just to revive the case.  Wilkes’ lieutenant had all of his resources pulled.  Shots ring out and Henry evades the gunfire long enough for Peggy to find and secure Wilkes.

The Lady in the Lake- Andrew tells Daniel and Peggy that it's too late for him

But then Henry finds and corners Sousa, with Peggy catching up a bit after him.  Hopefully Sousa doesn’t hesitate this time.  However, Henry’s gun is frozen, so it’s of no use.  Peggy says that there’s help for Henry, but he insists that it’s too late for him and that they won’t let him work this out.  Then a shot is fired and Henry disintegrates.  Turns out the agent who shot him left his radio in the car.  Right.  Idiot.

The Lady in the Lake- Vernon tells Thompson that the SSR is irrelevant

Over drinks, Thompson asks Vernon why Dottie is being taken off of SSR’s hands, given how much work it took to get her.  Vernon, we learn, is friends with Thompson’s father and pulled strings to get him this gig at SSR. Vernon tells Thompson to look at this from a long term perspective- the SSR is a wartime agency and the war is over.  Thompson isn’t being fired as much as he and the agency are becoming irrelevant.

The entire department of war is being restructured, which means that the SSR is going the way of the dinosaur.  So, Vernon says, Thompson must ask himself: “Do I want to be the former chief of the SSR or the current muckety-muck of the next big thing?”  Thompson wants to be in the muck.

Vernon explains that Miss Dorothy Dottie Underwood was attempting to steal from some very powerful men who have even more powerful allies.  If Thompson keeps his nose to the grindstone, there’ll be a nice promotion for him in the future.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy apologizes to Jason for putting his life in danger

Peggy apologizes to Wilkes for putting him in danger.  If whatever killed detective Henry and the medical examiner is contagious, then they’ve all been exposed.  However, Wilkes assumes that whatever it is, you can’t get it unless you’ve been exposed to contaminated blood.  The medical examiner had the most intense and prolonged exposure, which may explain why he succumbed first.

Wilkes thanks Carter for saving his life…and asks for dinner and a dance this upcoming Saturday evening.  Peggy makes it her policy not to socialize with persons of interest.  Okay, but Wilkes is glad that Peggy at least finds him interesting.  That’s one way to look at it.

The Lady in the Lake- Inept officer receives payment from Calvin Chadwick

The agent who fired at Henry receives an envelope from Calvin Chadwick, who learns that the job is done.  Frost hopes that this will be the last time the two of them have to dirty their hands since Calvin dirtied other parts of his anatomy.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy and Daniel wrap up for the night

At SSR West, Peggy and Sousa agree that their case isn’t closed yet.  Peggy could use a drink, but Sousa is a bit preoccupied tonight.

Peggy watches from upstairs as Sousa meets up with a lady.  Wife?  Girlfriend?  Regardless, Peggy’s observation is interrupted by Jarvis’ arrival.  Jarvis, you suck.

The Lady in the Lake- Jason observes the Zero Matter

Dr. Wilkes heads to a facility and eyes black mass in a containment unit as the episode comes to a close.

“The Lady in the Lake” is a very good continuation of the series.  It rewards the patience for the long wait with a fresh start and the journey to Los Angeles feels like a new beginning for our protagonists.  However, moving from New York to L.A. isn’t made into an excuse to just redo the first season in a new location.  This opening doesn’t act as if you’re unfamiliar with the series.  It’s a new beginning, but instead of completely starting in L.A. and going from there, we pick up with the lingering threads of the first season.

The Lady in the Lake- Dottie dressed as Peggy

And that’s a good thing because it gives us time to see how things have changed in between seasons.  For starters, I did not expect that we’d pick up with Dottie so soon, given her narrow escape at the end of “Valediction.”  Rather than just keep her out there until a surprise reappearance, we jump right back into her storyline.  And it’s one I expect may continue throughout the season since we still don’t know all there is to unravel about Leviathan.

The Lady in the Lake- Dottie and Peggy face off

Though she’s not in the episode for long, Bridget Regan makes good use of her screen time with her face-offs between both Peggy and Thompson.  She’s cornered, but she still has cards to play and Dottie is dripping with about as much malevolence as she was last time.  I really like how she gets under Thompson’s skin by comparing his interrogation to Peggy’s, as she was fond of and could fear her, but not Thompson.

The Lady in the Lake- Jack tells Peggy that the SSR can function without her

Moving onto Thompson, I’m pleased with the progression of his character.  What started off as treating Carter like a second-rate employee grew into a strong work relationship and friendship and that bond has continued here.  Now he’s the one berating other agents for making light of Peggy and he’s stepped into Chief Dooley’s shoes well and learned from his mentor.

The Lady in the Lake- Jack does not want to become irrelevant

He bears the responsibility of keeping the agency afloat in light of receiving credit for stopping Leviathan, but Thompson’s problem is that the times are a-changing.  The SSR isn’t needed in this period, so any and all hard work is taken out from underneath him and given to someone more worthwhile.  In essence, it almost feels like he’s in Peggy’s shoes from last season in that he’s qualified to do the job, but people higher up on the totem pole, like Vernon, don’t have use for him in his current role.

The Lady in the Lake- Sousa tells Thompson about the lady in the lake murder

Sousa has also gone through a major transformation as head of the new SSR branch and I’m glad he’s put in a position of leadership, given his great investigative skills we saw last season.  On a side-note, I like that the show has brought over Rose to Los Angeles.  Sure, Rose didn’t have the biggest of roles last season, but it’s a nice way to show that the main characters and SSR in general are going through a transition.

The Lady in the Lake- Daniel trusts Peggy to find Chadwick

And he’s as trusting of Peggy as ever, despite being in a new environment.  He isn’t trying to show off or make a big impression to give off the vibe that he’s a tough guy.  Sousa lets his work speak for himself and I’m pleased to see him in an authoritative role.

The Lady in the Lake- Sousa learns that the lab technicians are underappreciated at the SSR

Plus, I like how even though he’s been at this for six months, there’s still plenty for him to learn.  It can’t be easy to start up an SSR branch and Sousa is still strapped for resources, so I’m interested to see how this branch operates under his leadership.  Though it’s clear, given Peggy’s reaction when Thompson says that Sousa asked for her, and how he hasn’t called her back- that there’s still some emotional attraction between them.

The Lady in the Lake- Edwin and Ana kiss

A brief word on the Ana and Edwin: first off, it’s nice to finally meet Ana after just having her relegated to mentions, and she’s nothing like what I expected her to be, which is nice.  She’s filling the close friend role with Peggy since Angie is sadly nowhere to be seen, but from what I hear, she’s not gone from the show altogether.

The Lady in the Lake- Jarvis tells Whitney Frost about the film 'The British Are Coming'

Plus, Jarvis is much more willing to go on missions and while he’s still playing backup, I like how he’s become bored with normal civilian life and longs for those dangerous adventures.  Again, it’s development between seasons, as he’s still keeping tabs on Howard Stark, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t gotten bored while away from Peggy.  And the chemistry between James D’Arcy and Hayley Atwell is as funny as it’s ever been.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy reacts upon hearing that Sousa asked for her

That brings me to Peggy, who might have gotten sidelined from dealing with Dottie, but she never let that stop her.  She’s just traded in her red hat for red sunglasses and more disguises.  And in Los Angeles, despite the change in scenery, Peggy is as hard of a worker as she’s ever been, but unlike Season One, she’s not in a working environment where she has to challenge her superiors.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy realizes that Sousa trusts her to get the job done

Sousa knows what Peggy is capable of, so when he sends Henry off to deal with the press, he also has Peggy do her own work because he’s seen that she can get the job done.  This is still the 1940s, so Carter still isn’t fully seen as an equal, but within the context of her job and this investigation, she’s not fighting any sexism for the moment.  That I’m thankful for because I really don’t want Agent Carter to touch upon the sexism in great detail again.  I’d like to think the show has moved past that.

I’ve said it before: even before the events of Agent Carter, Peggy deserves to be seen as an equal due to her efforts and work during the war.  She shouldn’t have to be relegated to certain roles because of her gender, and here, she’s not.  She investigates the case alongside Daniel and Andrew as an equal and her hunch about the cases not being linked gets the investigation moving.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy's flawless American accent

But that doesn’t mean we have to abandon the fun hijinks from Season One, and the return of Peggy’s many costumes was a delight to see.  That and hearing Hayley Atwell pull off an impressive American accent.  What is it with the Brits being able to pull off that accent with ease?  And really, what is there to say about Atwell’s performance that hasn’t been said?  She’s dripping with charisma, strength, commands each scene she’s in, and her abilities don’t come from the fact that she’s a woman, but that she’s a competent person who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

The Lady in the Lake- Peggy surprises Dottie

I know many love to play up the fact that Agent Carter really appeals to those that want a strong, independent woman, and while that’s certainly true of Peggy, I just love the fact that she’s great at what she does.  That and she’s not merely a well-written, three-dimensional woman, but a well-written and three-dimensional character.

Tonally, we’re in a bit more supernatural territory compared to Season One, unless you include Ivchenko’s hypnotism.  Apparently that black substance at the end also appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but again, I don’t watch that show, so I’m curious to see where Agent Carter will go with it.

Jessica Jones

The blend of action and humor is still here in force and the show’s tone is an interesting contrast when you consider that we got Jessica Jones just a few months ago.  Two different shows, yes, but still within the same Cinematic Universe, yet wildly different tones.  But as Marvel has shown, it still works and is believable.  Plus, it sort of helps that these shows are decades apart.  Okay, this isn’t a Jessica Jones post and I’ve gone on long enough.

“The Lady in the Lake” builds on the character development and plot of Season One, expands the cast with new and interesting characters, presents a new mystery for our heroes to solve, and is a great return to form for Agent Carter.  There’s a lot thrown at us and granted, this is all setup, but with Peggy Carter on the job, it’s going to be a fun ride.  Here’s to Season Two.

A Look at “The Walking Dead” #150: “Betrayal”

The Walking Dead #150- Cover

So here we are at issue #150: “Betrayed.”  On top of a huge confrontation and demonstration of strength in Alexandria, we’re getting a lot of seeds planted for what’s to come down the line as Rick rallies the communities.  It’s a good issue.  There’s been a lot of buildup to this one, being that it’s the 150th issue and we’ve seen big events play out in other issues, like the 100th, but at the end of the day, I enjoyed what I read.

The Walking Dead #150- Andrea spots Carl and Lydia kissing

To get a brief moment at the Hilltop done, we get Andrea spotting Carl and Lydia getting it on.  Now it’s a quick moment, but important for a few reasons.  It furthers the bond that Carl and Lydia have established and brings them closer in the face of this turmoil.  They already had sex once before, so it’s not unexpected that they’d want to have some alone time again.  Timing might not be great, given how the other communities want Lydia’s head, but hey, it’s not like she or Carl have much time to themselves anyway.

But then we’ve got Andrea.  I might be mistaken, but I think this might be the first time she’s been made aware of Carl and Lydia having an intimate bond.  As far as I know, the only adults who have an inkling of what’s going on between the two are Maggie, Jesus, and Dante.  Mostly Hilltop folks.  It looks like Andrea was ready to take a second look or possibly barge in on them, but decided to let the kids have their moment.

The Walking Dead #150- Rick beaten by Olivia's husband

So ever since Rick decided to not retaliate against The Whisperers, various people within the communities have both perceived him as weak and pushed to get revenge.  We saw last week that Olivia’s husband met up with Josh’s family and we see said husband lash out at Rick for his perceived weakness.  And I’ve gotta say that the sequence of panels when Rick is beaten is eerily similar not just to Negan beating Glenn, but also Carl beating those two asshole kids that attacked him and Sophia.

The Walking Dead #150- Rick bites and kills Olivia's husband

But Rick obviously was going to make it through by biding his time.  It’s not the first time that Rick has bitten someone and caused them to bleed out, as we saw with that one marauder when Carl, Abraham, and Rick were ambushed, but it might as well be his signature move at this point.

Rick is in a difficult place right now, as evidenced by his speech to the community.  As leader, he takes the blame for anything bad that happens and any actions taken.  For him to admit that he’s afraid, that he doesn’t want things to go back to the way they were before people started finding each other, is important.  Rick and his group, despite the bad things they’ve done, have remained true to who they are.  Their morality has been questioned, but they haven’t become outright villains.

The Walking Dead #150- Rick addresses the communities and calls to form an army

And yet, they and everyone else around them have faced heartbreak.  With these 12 new murders, it’s sensible that Rick would be afraid of going back to the old ways because he’s not looking for senseless violence.  Although, it’s interesting he would say that, given that he killed a man in the same fashion that he killed another back when he and his group lived on their own as survivors.

But with so much peace and stability, Alexandria has become exactly what Rick feared it was when his group first arrived: weak and soft.  They’ve had it easy for so long that their confidence is rattled when dealt a fatal blow.  And despite the bloodlust still there, Rick and Eugene acknowledge that this standing army is a way to distract people from that anger and focus their energy on the goal of eliminating The Whisperers.

The Walking Dead #150- Rick has Josh's father brought on stage

Plus, despite Rick being attacked, he’s not going to just kill anyone that opposes him, as he chose to let Josh’s father live.  I thought he was going to kill him just for being involved, but as I reread this issue, I think of a moment in Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler said that power is when we have every justification to kill and we don’t.  Rick could have Josh’s father killed without a thought, but mercy can be a powerful weapon.

Had Rick killed Josh’s father to make an example of him, he’d be taking much more of Negan’s advice than necessary, but right now, Rick has given the rallying cry to his soldiers to wipe The Whisperers from the face of the Earth.  He’s got the people by his side again, and Negan is certainly pleased that Rick took his advice, but it remains to be seen just how much Rick may allow Negan’s words to influence him.  We’ll see.

A Look at “Carol”

Carol- Poster

Carol.  It’s a film that’s been stuck in my head since seeing it.  The story is well presented, the leads are great, and it’s a well-directed picture.  There’s little bad I have to say about it, but what sells it is the lead performances of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women who find love at a time when such passion between two women would be forbidden.  They both experience turmoil and a case of heartbreak, but try to maintain their bond.  Will their love endure?  Let’s jump right in.

The film begins in New York, 1952.  A man named Jack Taft, played by Trent Rowland, enters a bar and gets himself a drink on particularly busy night.  As he drinks, though, he spots a familiar face across the room.

Carol- Jack Taft, played by Trent Rowland, finds Therese Belivet, played by Rooney Mara, having dinner with Carol Aird, played by Cate Blanchett

He heads over and does indeed spot a friend of his: Therese Belivet, played by Rooney Mara.  Therese, it turns out, is in the middle of a dinner with her acquaintance, Carol Aird, played by Cate Blanchett.  Jack, who hasn’t seen Therese in some time, invites her to a party he’s about to attend.  Though Therese seems reluctant to leave, Carol insists that she go, as she herself has an upcoming engagement anyway.

Carol- Carol talks with Therese about trains, dolls, and Santa hats

Following the departure, we cut to Therese waking up and preparing for the day.  She works in the toy section of a Frankenberg’s department store and has a fascination with train models.  This interest alone makes me like Therese.  When the store opens and people begin their holiday shopping, one woman in particular gets Therese’s attention, and that’s Carol.  She’s searching for a specific doll for her daughter, but said doll is currently unavailable at the store.

Carol makes small talk by asking what Therese’s favorite toy was from her youth.  Therese didn’t have many, though.  She’s always wanted a train set and knows quite a lot about them through reading.  Therese informs Carol that while the particular doll may not be in stock, it can be shipped to her.  With that, Carol leaves her address and heads out, but not before complimenting Therese on her Santa hat.  It’s brief, but Therese appears touched by this.  She also notices that Carol left her gloves behind.

Later, Therese, her boyfriend Richard, played by Jake Lacy, and some friends head to a bar after seeing a film at the cinema.  Therese brings her camera along with her, as she has a keen interest in photography.  As it so happens, one member of the group, Dannie, played by John Magaro, works for The New York Times and can probably make some connections for Therese.  It’s nice to know people who know people, you know?

Carol- Carol spends time with her daughter, Rindy, played by Sadie Heim

We then go to Carol’s home as she has some alone time with her daughter, Rindy, played by Sadie Heim, before the arrival of Carol’s husband, Harge, played by Kyle Chandler.  Harge and Carol have a tense relationship with about as much chemistry as fire and ice.  Harge wants Carol to attend a dinner that a friend of theirs wants her to attend, even though she’d rather do anything else.  However, she does agree to go.

Back at Frankenberg’s, Therese learns that Carol’s package has been delivered.  She then receives a phone call from Carol, who thanks her for returning the gloves.  As a token of her gratitude, she offers to take Therese to lunch.

Carol- Carol and Therese have lunch

At said lunch, as the two enjoy their smokes, Carol finds Therese’s name quite original and captivating, as if Therese had been flung out of space.  Therese, by comparison, is nervous during this outing and finds it difficult to maintain eye contact with Carol.  On the subject of relationship issues, neither is doing so well right now.  Carol is soon to be divorced, while Therese isn’t exactly rushing to marry Richard.  Going forward, the two women don’t have plans this Sunday, so Therese offers to visit Carol.

Carol- Carol and her husband, Harge, played by Kyle Chandler, dance at the party

After lunch, Carol receives a ride from a friend, Abby, played by Sarah Paulson, who looks far cheerier than she did in 12 Years a Slave.  The two then head to the aforementioned party and Carol has a less than pleasant time.  One of the hosts even invites Carol over for the holiday, but she may do her own thing.

At the New York Times office, Dannie shows Therese around and explains that he’s a writer and focuses on people, similar to Therese with her photography.  However, Therese feels weird taking pictures of people.  There’s a level of attraction to some people, and Dannie tells her that it’s like physics, or rather, two pinballs bouncing off of each other.  When the two get close, Dannie goes in for the kiss.  Ballsy, but foolish, in my opinion.  Therese isn’t bothered, but she does use this kiss as her cue to exit, stage left.

Carol- Harge and Carol argue

Sometime after the party, Harge and Carol talk, with Harge thinking that Carol has something going on with Abby.  Carol, though, says that what went on between the two of them is already over.  It’s not supposed to be like this for them, and Carol knows this, but it’s what they have right now.

Carol- Therese plays piano song while Carol observes

Carol heads into town to pick up Therese, who snaps a few shots of Carol while she buys a Christmas tree.  Carol and Rindy later put up the three at their home before Carol asks Therese whether the pictures she took were of her.  As Therese then plays the piano, Carol asks Therese if she wants to be a photographer.  After all, people let you know that you have talent and Carol likes the pictures.

But then Harge makes an unexpected visit because he wants to take Rindy with him for the holidays.  Surprised to see this random woman, Harge asks her how she knows his wife.  Harge and Carol clash outside, with Harge calling Carol cruel, while Therese listens.  When the argument ends and Carol heads back in, she immediately decides to take Therese into the city.  It’s an abrupt end to a nice visit as Therese finds herself in tears on the train back home.

However, when Therese arrives home, she receives a call from Carol, who apologizes for being horrible.  Therese has so much that she wants to ask Carol, who wants to be asked.

Carol’s bad news with her marriage gets worse.  Fred Haymes, played by Kevin Crowley, informs Carol that Harge is seeking an injunction and wants sole custody of Rindy.  How?  With a morality clause and evidence of a pattern of lewd behavior.  However, the hearing isn’t until March, so until then, Carol should avoid attracting any sort of scrutiny, despite her disbelief at what’s happened.

Carol- Richard and Therese talk about homosexuality

Back in the city, Therese purchases an album.  She talks with Richard that she’s thinking of creating a portfolio, but Richard is all-consumed with his hopes that Therese will come with him to live in Europe.  Therese switches the conversation to love and asks how often Richard has experienced it.  There were two women he slept with before Therese, but that was it.

Therese then asks the important question of whether Richard ever loved a boy.  Obviously not.  But there’s a reason that Therese asked that question, so Richard flips it around and asks if she likes a particular girl.  I can’t say I buy whether people in the 1950s talked like this, but whatever.  Therese tells Richard that she’s not ready for the kind of big commitment that he wants.

Carol- Carol talks with Abby, played by Sarah Paulson

Carol meets with Abby to discuss the morality clause.  Abby is aghast, but Carol almost blames herself for it coming to this point.  She plans to go west for some time, but no one can know about it.

She then delivers a gift to Therese: a brand new camera and film.  On the rooftop, Carol thinks that it’s futile to fight this injunction.  However, she doesn’t blame Therese for anything that’s happened.  In fact, she invites her to join her on the road.  Well, Therese is certainly pleased to hear this.

But Richard isn’t, and he lets Carol know as much when the two talk later.  His mind is still on Europe and he believes that Therese’s infatuation with Carol amounts to nothing more than a silly little crush.  More than that, he believes that despite what’s happening now, eventually Carol will get tired of Therese.  He storms off, saying that in two weeks, Therese will come begging for him.

Carol- Carol and Therese go on a road trip

Sounds bad, but when Therese and Carol hit the road, Therese presents Carol with a Christmas gift, a Teddy Wilson/Billie Holiday album, to Carol, she remarks that she hadn’t even thought about Richard since the argument.

Carol- Abby tells off Harge

Harge, though, hasn’t been able to get Carol off of his mind to the point that he confronts Abby in a rage, thinking that she’s hiding his wife.  But Abby isn’t putting up with any of Harge’s bullshit and says that he’s got some fucking nerve to act the way that he is, injunction and all.  The two clash and Harge does eventually soften, telling Abby that Carol is still his wife.  True as that is, Abby can’t help him with that.

Back on the road, the two ladies stop at a hotel.  As Carol showers, she calls out for Therese to find her sweater.  She does indeed find it in her suitcase, but also spots a gun as well.  If movies are any indication, that firearm will become important later.  On the subsequent car ride, Therese asks Carol if she feels safe with her.  Carol responds that she’s not frightened at all.

Carol- Carol and Therese speak with Tommy Tucker, played by Cory Michael Smith

At the next hotel, Carol wants a modest room, but Therese, living life to the fullest, suggests the presidential suite.  While Carol settles in, Therese collects some ice from outside and meets Tommy Tucker, played by Gotham’s Edward Nygma himself, Cory Michael Smith.  Tommy is a salesman, but not just any salesman.  He sells notions, despite not knowing what those even are.  He tries and fails to make a sale to both Carol and Therese, but it’s a decent attempt.

Carol and Therese’s road trip will eventually take them to Chicago, same place where Tommy is headed.  That’s no coincidence, I’m betting.  He shows them a shortcut on their map.  During the trip, Therese receives some mail, even though no one should know where she is.  Carol, meanwhile, makes a brief phone call, but tells Therese that she just visited the ladies room.  They’re the same place, really.

Carol- Therese and Carol laugh while having some drinks

Eventually, the two arrive in Waterloo, Iowa.  Interesting name.  The New Year is upon them and it’s a pretty big moment for Carol, as she and Harge never spent the New Year together.  Business always came up.  Therese has been in big groups before, but she always felt alone in the crowd.

Carol- Therese and Carol in bed

As the two talk in their hotel room, they grow closer and take each other to bed.  As they slowly begin to explore one another, Carol reiterates her point about Therese: she’s a girl flung right out of space.

And freeze!

Brooklyn

There were two films I saw in 2015 that presented a young, female protagonist in New York that’s on a journey to find herself and finds love in the process.  But while Brooklyn had Eilis also go through a case of culture shock between Ireland and New York, Therese, I feel, is more about self-discovery.

Carol- Therese and Carol kiss

Carol is a tale of forbidden love, and it hurts to say something so cliché, but we’re talking about two women who fall in love in 1950s New York.  Even the mere idea would be taboo.  We live in a time where such a conversation or relationship is considered normal.  Or close to normal, I suppose.

Carol- Therese spots Carol at the end

But while Carol does present a relationship involving two women, I appreciate that this film didn’t try to hit the audience over the head with that.  It would be easy for the writer and director to force the message that, yes, we’re dealing with a same-sex relationship, as if that’s a big deal.  Films like Grandma and Blue is the Warmest Colour both had lesbian couples, but the fact that they were lesbians wasn’t the point.  The strength of the relationships came from the writing, performances, and the fact that their bonds felt natural.

Carol- Carol and Richard, played by Jack Lacy, talk about whether it's possible to fall in love with someone of the same gender

With Carol, the topic of homosexuality is touched upon, but not shoved in your face.  It’s played up as a foreign or alien concept, but not 100 percent impossible.  Therese and Richard talk about whether it’s possible to like someone of the same gender.  For them, it’s not, but nothing that someone would ever consider.  It’s just so unnatural in their eyes.  We’re at a period in history where many believe science can cure homosexuality, similar to what we’ve seen in Showtime’s Masters of Sex.  A relationship between two people of the same gender just means something is wrong with the two people involved.

Carol- Carol admires Therese

Adding to the abnormality of it all, Carol twice remarks that Therese was flung out of space.  Sure, we know that Carol has engaged in a sexual relationship with women in the past, but even that comes off as other worldly to society as a whole.  To the world, homosexuals have some kind of deformity, as if they were indeed flung out of space.  But that makes it all the more unique and special for Carol and especially Therese as she explores these feelings for the first time.

Carol- Therese takes a picture of Carol from afar

And that has a lot to do with the film’s focus on personal identity.  Again, going back to Brooklyn for a bit, Eilis and Therese come off as very normal to the average person.  Nothing about them really sticks out and Therese doesn’t really see herself as special.  She doesn’t believe she’s the best photographer in the world or think she’s extraordinary.  Hell, she appears to be just going through the motions of her relationship with Richard.

Carol- Therese touched by Carol's words about her hat

But the smallest of compliments from Carol about her hat, which is no different from what the other employees wore that day, was enough to make her feel desirable in someone else’s eyes.  Therese isn’t out to be a people pleaser or the center of attention.  It’s only when she receives compliments from the likes of Carol and Dannie that she becomes more outspoken in what she wants.

She expressed a desire early on that she wanted to create a portfolio, but never followed through on it.  Once Carol complements her work, she actively works to take more photos and build out her portfolio in order to pursue an actual career.  What seemed far off or impossible became a reality.

Carol- Carol and Therese at a mirror

This extends the reality of her relationship with Carol, and I like how the film doesn’t force the two together very fast.  We see them develop over time in increments.  They begin with Therese as the employee and Carol the customer, that extends to a phone call to lunch to gift exchanges to visiting each other’s homes- director Todd Haynes and writer Phyllis Nagy took care to make sure we saw Carol and Therese grow.

Carol- Therese and Carol go for a drive

Rather than being told about exploits off-screen, the audience gets to see Therese and Carol change, as real people would.  But despite how close the two grow, there’s still a generational divide.  Carol is seasoned and experienced in romantic affairs, while Therese found it difficult at first to discuss the idea of loving another woman.  Carol lives in affluence and embodies the life of the rich and famous: large home, fancy ride, and a child.

Carol- Therese with coworkers

Therese lives in an apartment that she needs to paint, works in customer service, and isn’t captivated by her boyfriend.  She’s humble and isn’t one seeking a glamorous lifestyle.  I get the sense that if she weren’t working at the department store, she’d be perfectly happy in photography because that’s her passion.  If there was any sort of falling out, I don’t think she’d lose much, particularly when she’s not invested in Richard for the long run.

Carol- Harge tells Carol that it wasn't supposed to be like this

By comparison, Carol has much to lose: her reputation, the remnants of her crumbling relationship with Harge, and most important, her daughter.  As evidenced by her past fling with Abby, Carol has been down this path before, but this sort of tryst, no matter how much she wants it, will end with someone being hurt.  Her plate is fuller and what she’s enduring is something that Therese can’t understand quite yet.  It’s like the old adage, “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

Carol- Carol's hand on Therese's shoulder

What I like about Carol and Therese’s relationship is that there’s no guarantee that this will last forever.  This is no fairy tale romance.  Carol may have gone through an affair before, but to Therese, this is brand new.  And as the two grow, Therese becomes more grown up as opposed to the timid girl Carol first met.  Carol, for fear of being exposed or getting in too deep, has to be a few steps ahead of Therese, but even she can’t account for everything, which gets her into trouble a few times.

Carol- Carol and Abby talk

While Carol isn’t what I’d call a role model for women, she’s not made unsympathetic because of her infidelity.  Sure, there’s something to be said about a person who is unfaithful in their marriage and could damage the relationship with their family, but she’s not doing it out of spite.

Carol- Carol does Rindy's hair

She’s not happy in her marriage, but she does love Rindy enough to try and find a middle ground so she can still see her, even if it means losing custody.  That doesn’t turn her into a saint overnight, but we see that she doesn’t want the family to crumble into complete disarray.  At one point during a custody hearing, she tells Harge that they aren’t ugly people, as in she doesn’t want this battle to change them for the worse.  Carol may not have feelings for Harge, but she’s not going to let this paint both him and her as villains.

Carol- Carol and Therese at dinner

Cate Blanchett plays this role effortlessly as a conflicted New York socialite.  It’s not as layered or complex as the socialite that Blanchett portrayed in Blue Jasmine, in my opinion, but it’s a great performance nonetheless.  And so much of the performance is told through little subtleties: the lightest touch of the hand, a slight smile, and longing gazes- it’s a great example of a film showing us chemistry between two people instead of spelling it out.

Carol- Carol at the custody hearing

What’s more, Blanchett doesn’t give Carol this air of superiority.  She doesn’t flaunt her wealth or treat Therese like some second class citizen because of the differences between them.  She just happens to have money, but she’s not unlikable because of that.  It’d be easy to portray Carol as cold, distant, and antisocial because of her wealth, but Blanchett plays her with such vulnerability that I sympathize with her at times.

Carol- Carol points her guy at Tommy

Carol carries a gun with her because she’s unsure who may try to threaten her life, despite the fact that she’s a well-off White woman in 1950s America.  She wants out of her crumbling marriage so she can be on her own, but she’s unwilling to fully lose her daughter- the one thing that still unites her and Harge.  But around Therese, all that hardness vanishes and she lowers her defenses because Therese gives her a sense of happiness I’m guessing Harge hasn’t made her feel in a long time.  It’s a great performance from Blanchett.

Carol- Therese about to cry

And just as strong in her performance is Rooney Mara.  There’s this unassuming innocence to Therese because she’s not a showoff, she doesn’t come from wealth or fame, and she works in a department store.  But from how she talks about her love of trains, the skill in which she takes photos and plays the piano, we see that this is a woman with untapped potential.  And she’s not one to stay confined to gender roles.

Carol- Therese smokes

She doesn’t care about Richard’s plan to go to Europe because she’s making a life for herself.  And she refuses to accept his notion that she made him change.  Therese may be soft-spoken, but she’s a fighter.  Her relationship with Carol seemed to reveal a new, more assertive side to her.

Carol- Therese enjoys the car ride

Therese starts off unsure of her feelings, but even when she does gain more clarity in what she wants from a relationship, she’s also much more focused on her professional life than when the film started.  By film’s end, she’s not the shy clerk we first met.

Carol- Carol and Therese find love

Now, I don’t have any major gripes with the film, but I would like to gripe about the sex scene between Therese and Carol for one reason: the score.  This is common for films and televisions, but I hate when some big musical score plays during a sexual encounter, intimate or otherwise.  It makes the moment feel more Hollywood than intimate.

Blue is the Warmest Color- Sex Scene 2

For comparison’s sake, in Blue is the Warmest Colour, the first time Emma and Adele have sex, there’s proper build to it, but there’s no score played against the scene.  It’s stark and feels both real and more authentic because we’re watching two people express and act out on their feelings for one another.  It feels less like a scene from a movie and more like we’re peering in on this cherished moment.  We don’t need to be told it’s a big deal because we can see that for ourselves.

But in this instance, the score overplays the fact that this is a big step forward for Therese and Carol.  The film was building to this and had already established their bond, so I don’t need music playing in the background to highlight something I can figure out for myself.  I know, it’s a minor quibble that’s inconsequential to the film as a whole, but it’s something I wish films and television shows would move pass.  This is a film with a same-sex couple.  If Brokeback Mountain and Blue is the Warmest Colour can make sexual encounters feel more authentic by having those scenes play without music, then this film has no excuse.

Again, though, it’s a minor qualm on what’s still an outstanding film about discovery and personal growth as two women embark upon a forbidden romance.  The biggest strength of Carol comes from the strong performances and chemistry of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, as they make their characters and bond feel real.  It’s not about the fact that the relationship involves two women: it’s about taking that step into dangerous, yet intriguing and unchartered territory.

While Therese and Carol may have much to lose from the others around them, when they’re around each other, there’s a sense of belonging and peace that they don’t get from the other people in their lives.  And despite the odds they face, dangers they encounter, and how their lives change, their desire to be together won’t fade away.